Self-Publishing

Q&A with Pronoun: An Increasingly Competitive Ebook Distributor

22 January 2017

From Jane Friedman:

Do you remember the digital publishing startups Vook? Booklr? Byliner?

All of these services/companies have been folded into an ebook distribution service known as Pronoun, which was launched in fall 2015 and later acquired by Big Five publisher Macmillan.

Pronoun works with independent authors to distribute and sell ebooks to the five major online retailers: Amazon, Apple, Barnes & Noble, Kobo, and Google Play. Pronoun charges authors nothing upfront, and doesn’t take a cut of ebook sales either.

Let’s restate that, since it’s so remarkable: Authors are paid 100 percent net on ebook sales (after the retailer takes their cut), and authors pay no fees to Pronoun.

Today, Pronoun is announcing some significant changes to their terms, including:

  • 70% royalty on ebooks sold through Amazon when the price is below $2.99 (standard is 35% if you sell direct to Amazon via KDP)
  • 65% royalty on ebooks sold through Amazon when the price is beyond $9.99 (again, the standard is 35% if you sell direct to Amazon via KDP)
  • The ability to make ebooks free at any time through Amazon without being exclusive (not possible via KDP)
  • No requirement to be “all in” with Pronoun; you can use them to distribute to just one retailer, several, or all. It’s up to you.

Recently, I asked Justin Renard, Pronoun’s head of marketing, a few questions about Pronoun’s services for authors.

As far as I know, Pronoun is the only distributor open to indie authors that can promise a 70% cut on Amazon sales on prices below $2.99 or 65% at price points beyond $9.99. Do you welcome authors who are already selling their ebooks through Amazon KDP to move their books over to Pronoun to take advantage? How long does it take you to get a book available for sale on Amazon once someone sets up their account and uploads their files?

Justin Renard: Our door is open to all authors who are excited by what Pronoun has to offer, and with our new terms, we offer the flexibility for authors to decide what publishing strategy makes the most sense for their books. 70% sales on books priced below $2.99 will be very appealing to authors who rely on ebook price promotion tools to market their books.

We’ve tried to create a frustration-free publishing experience—from uploading and producing a cover, to preparing a book for success on retail sites. Once you press publish it usually takes between 2 hours and 48 hours for your book to appear on all the retailers we serve.

Right now, Amazon KDP offers authors immediate sales data about their ebooks, as well as total control over all the book information and metadata. Does Pronoun match all that functionality in its dashboard for authors?

We do offer total control over all the book information and metadata pushed out to retailers, the difference being is that on Pronoun, you can push the updates out to all retailers at once. Our sales reporting updates daily from all retailers.

Copies sold, total sales, and estimated earnings are some of the sales information we report from all retailers. We also automatically record major events like go-live dates and metadata changes so authors can see the impact of their work on their sales. Authors can also add their own milestones for promotional activities or any offline marketing.

Link to the rest at Jane Friedman and thanks to Ryan for the tip.

Despite What You Heard, The E-Book Market Never Stopped Growing

19 January 2017

From Observer.com:

Over the last year, we’ve been talking to writers like A.G. Riddle who have been making a more than comfortable living selling e-books directly to readers on Amazon. That’s why it’s always seemed a bit strange to see media accounts reporting on the shrinking market for e-books.

News outlets like The New York Times report that e-book sales continue to slip, which is true if the data only covers part of the market. Reports from the Association of American Publishers has data from 1,200 publishers. They are the largest publishers, but they are also losing market share.

E-book sales never declined, according to a presentation yesterday at Digital Book World in New York City. In fact, if anything, we don’t yet have an adequate way to estimate how much the market segment has grown.

In back-to-back presentations from from the data site Author Earnings and publishing tech firm Overdrive, it became clear that “unit sales” may not be the best way to measure the size of the book market. In more and more ways it’s becoming clear that there are additional ways for writers to earn money than by readers buying whole books or even buying books at all.

 

. . . .

E-books, Data Guy told the crowd, “Never stopped growing.”

It looks as though sales stuttered because traditional publishers have been losing market share to indie authors who publish directly through online platforms. Amazon is by far the largest of these platforms.

. . . .

Reports on the e-book market tend to ignore Kindle Unlimited, Amazon’s Netflix for ebooks. Amazon splits up each month’s Kindle Unlimited revenue among participating authors based on how many pages members read.

Science-fiction author Hugh Howey said that being part of the program increased his revenue so much that it was worth pulling his books from all other platforms, such as Kobo and iBooks.

Data Guy acknowledged that some industry watchers might argue that a Kindle Unlimited download isn’t really a sale, but Author Earnings takes the position that any money in a writer’s pocket counts.

. . . .

 

Local book stores saw a 5 percent growth in sales last year, but every other channel (such as big stores, Walmart and etc) saw a 5 percent decline. Those channels were so much larger that local stores’ growth was more than made up for by the declines everywhere else. “Perhaps 10 fold,” Data Guy said.

Let’s hear it for your favorite local shop, but the truth is that Amazon has been the one closing those new print sales.

 

Link to the rest at Observer.com and thanks to Nirmala for the tip.

Is KDP getting better?

17 January 2017

PG was intrigued by a comment/question from Randall that was part of the discussion of another post:

Is KDP getting better? Most things Amazon just keep getting better. Is that true for KDP too?

What do you think?

Amazon.com – A Vengeful, Simplistic God?

17 January 2017

From author Adam Dreece:

Last week (Thurs – Jan 12, 2017), I received an email from Amazon around 11pm. They were “reaching out to me” to inform me that they had detected something called “system generated accounts” and thus, were immediately deleting my account. I’ve recently learned that there were a number of us hit, and all of us had the same thing happen.

Welcome to the world of eBook siege weapons. Launchable by any anti-fan or jealous competitor, an indie author or small press can be utterly destroyed on Amazon without defense or recourse.

Every book, every book review, everything I’ve built up over years, is gone. No proof was provided, no opportunity to defend myself given. Like an ancient, vengeful god who had been tricked, Amazon acted as judge and executioner, with no need for jury or trial.

In December, I’d decided to enter their KDP Select program. This was my reward.

When I got the email, I sprang out of bed and emailed them immediately (They were “kind enough” to provide an email address “in case I had any questions.”). It thought it had been bad enough that I had been hammered with emails by them over the Xmas holidays to prove I had the copyright of each of my books, but I did. Now, things had gone nuclear.

I included in that email to them, an email thread between me and one of their KDP support people from a few weeks earlier. I’d noticed a weird spiky behaviour in KU reads, 25k, 0, 10k. It looked suspicious to me, so being the boy-scout that I am, I raised it. I even posted about it on FB, as it was really weird.

The KDP Support person’s response was clearly they thought me cute and naive, and they assured me there was no problem. I said I was scared that the Fiverr promo I’d used (which was new to me, but had over 650 reviews and was a top seller) could have been a scam or something, and they told me no. I even DOUBLE checked with them to please check everything, and I was told everything was fine. I’ve since learned that scammers have been pointing their bots at other authors, often targeting the #1 in smaller categories, so to throw suspicion away from their fake books. There’s no way for me to know though, because Amazon gave me no information.

The reply I got back from them was terse, “We will need some time to investigate this matter.”

. . . .

Last night when I was on FB, I read in a group that a woman just saw the same pattern happen. An inexplicable, 25k page read bump. She was wondering whether she should report it or not. I was going to share what happened to me, but I didn’t want to freak her out or presume that I was right. I then read elsewhere someone else getting hit with an unexpected 5k bump that was ‘instant’. I wondered what was happening. Then a friend pointed out another author she knew had been nuked by Amazon last week too. I read his FB post, and it was exactly the same as what happened to me. However, he’d been following this story a bit longer than me, and had heard of this type of thing happening. Now, he was a victim of it.

I realized that anyone can do this to anyone, and there’s no defense. Amazon assumes and acts, and doesn’t even leave us a means for proving our innocence. A friend asked if I had a lawyer, and I laughed. Have you ever seen someone go up against a titan? You’re bankrupt before you get anywhere near anything resembling justice.

. . . .

I understand Amazon needing to stop scammers from taking any share of the money from their KU money pool, absolutely, but WTF?! If you can detect these “systematic generated accounts” or whatever, then filter them the F out! Don’t make authors like me collateral damage in your simplistic approach. Give us little guys some kind of defense! Or how about a means to prove our innocence? Is it simply that there are so many authors out there that you don’t have to care? How about looking at all of those legal documents and copyright notices you asked me to provide just before nuking me?

Link to the rest at Adam Dreece and thanks to Randall and several others for the tip.

Unfortunately, PG has heard similar stories from other authors in recent months.

One of the things that most impressed PG when he first met a group of Amazon employees who managed KDP several years ago was their statement, repeated several times, that they regarded authors as their customers. Given Amazon’s stellar customer service, this was an impressive attitude toward authors, far different than the perspective traditional publishing has about all but its bestselling authors.

PG is concerned that this attitude may have eroded into something much less author-friendly.

On some occasions, law enforcement officers sink to a cynical view of the communities in which they operate, forgetting that, even in the worst neighborhoods, most people are not criminals. This is part of an emotional burnout that can effect those who spend a lot of time dealing with bad actors.

OTOH, there are people who try to game KDP Select and Amazon’s sales rank algorithms in ways that are inimical to both readers and honest authors. For obvious reasons, readers and honest authors would like such scammers kicked off Amazon. They stink up the place in many different ways.

PG suggests that Amazon needs to put some additional work on both its back-end systems designed to catch bad behavior and on the people side of scammer detection operations. The company needs to up its game to maintain operational excellence in this facet of its business.

One of the fundamental tenets of customer relations is that it’s much easier to keep an existing customer than to attract a new one. Another tenet is that handling small customer transactions well is important because a satisfied customer is much more likely to return.

The sum of small transactions adds up to a larger and larger number over time and the lifetime value of a customer, including an author who is an Amazon customer, is huge.

 

The Industry Finally Acknowledges Indies Are Authors

10 January 2017

From GoodEreader:

The gates have finally been thrown open, all are welcome here… Such is the dramatic sentiment now that indie authors have been given their very own day at one of the previously excluding events, Digital Book World. With the laughable and out-of-date self-titled proclamation, “DBW Indie Author: The First Conference For The New Professional Author,” industry leaders are once again convincing themselves that they set some kind of standard for self-published hangers-on.

Backing up, DBW has not been kind to self-publishing in the past. It has largely been an event aimed at patting the traditional publishing industry on the back for all of its innovation, while publishing regular blog posts that mock indies and shoot down any effort to prove that self-publishing can produce solid sales numbers.

This has been nowhere more evident than in DBW’s own author survey and its longtime scorn for the Author Earnings report. The company’s stance has long contained a negative refusal of acceptance that has questioned everything from Hugh Howey’s methodology in compiling sales figures–you can read about it in blog posts with titles such as, “Ten Reasons You Can’t Trust Everything You Read About the Author Earnings Report“–to asking if Data Guy was actually a real person.

Link to the rest at GoodEreader and thanks to Cathy for the tip.

Perhaps because PG has attend ten zillion (more or less) trade shows for various industries, he’s very picky about which shows are worth the time/cost and which are not.

Hint: The majority of trade shows are not worth the travel hassles, expenses, etc. In more than a few cases, people attend a show because they think others will draw negative inferences about them or their businesses if they don’t attend.

To be clear, PG has never attended a Digital Book World Conference, so he doesn’t have any knowledge of the quality of its shows.

PG admits a bias against shows in New York City. For him, food and lodging expenses, airport hassles, etc., are greater in NYC than other venues.

A few years ago, PG traveled to New York on business every other week for about a year with his employer paying the bills. He worked to keep the experience as non-stressful as possible, staying in the same (nice) hotel, using the same car service and driver, leveraging all the perks included in the top-level mileage category of a major airline, etc.

While there is no perfect convention city, New York never became as easy as other major business travel destinations – San Francisco, Chicago, Los Angeles, Las Vegas, Boston or Florida cities like Miami and Orlando.

PG will quit rambling about New York.

Another alternative to traveling to gather information is the internet. Particularly for indie authors who don’t need to impress a publisher, editor or agent, the internet may provide up-to-date information in better and certainly cheaper ways than a convention does.

PG doesn’t discount the potential business benefits derived from meeting people face-to-face. It can be vital for many types of businesses. However, PG wonders if it’s as important for indie authors as it is for many other business professionals.

PG was about to pontificate about introverts and large conventions, but he’ll let visitors to TPV let him know what he’s overlooked about trade shows and indie authors.

Renewing Medium’s focus

5 January 2017

From the Medium blog:

We’ve decided to make some major changes at Medium.

I’ll start with the hard part: As of today, we are reducing our team by about one third — eliminating 50 jobs, mostly in sales, support, and other business functions. We are also changing our business model to more directly drive the mission we set out on originally.

Obviously, this is a tough thing to do, made tougher by the immense respect and love we have for these people who have helped make Medium what it is today. We reached this decision when Medium’s management team came together to review the last year and take a hard look at our business — where we are and where we’re headed. While we could continue on our current path — and there is a business case for doing so — we decided that we risk failing on our larger, original mission if we don’t make some proactive changes while we have the momentum and resources to do so.

. . . .

Our vision, when we started in 2012, was ambitious: To build a platform that defined a new model for media on the internet. The problem, as we saw it, was that the incentives driving the creation and spread of content were not serving the people consuming it or creating it — or society as a whole. As I wrote at the time, “The current system causes increasing amounts of misinformation…and pressure to put out more content more cheaply — depth, originality, or quality be damned. It’s unsustainable and unsatisfying for producers and consumers alike….We need a new model.

We set out to build a better publishing platform — one that allowed anyone to offer their stories and ideas to the world and that helped the great ones rise to the top. In 2016, we made big investments in teams and technology aimed at attracting and migrating commercial publishers to Medium. And in order to get these publishers paid, we built out and started selling our first ad products. This strategy worked in terms of driving growth, as well as improving the volume and consistency of great content. Some of the web’s best publishers are now on Medium, and we’re happy to work with them every day. We also saw interest from many big brands and promising results from several content marketing campaigns on the platform.

However, in building out this model, we realized we didn’t yet have the right solution to the big question of driving payment for quality content. We had started scaling up the teams to sell and support products that were, at best, incremental improvements on the ad-driven publishing model, not the transformative model we were aiming for.

. . . .

Upon further reflection, it’s clear that the broken system is ad-driven media on the internet. It simply doesn’t serve people. In fact, it’s not designed to. The vast majority of articles, videos, and other “content” we all consume on a daily basis is paid for — directly or indirectly — by corporations who are funding it in order to advance their goals.

. . . .

We decided we needed to take a different — and bolder — approach to this problem. We believe people who write and share ideas should be rewarded on their ability to enlighten and inform, not simply their ability to attract a few seconds of attention. We believe there are millions of thinking people who want to deepen their understanding of the world and are dissatisfied with what they get from traditional news and their social feeds. We believe that a better system — one that serves people — is possible. In fact, it’s imperative.

So, we are shifting our resources and attention to defining a new model for writers and creators to be rewarded, based on the value they’re creating for people. And toward building a transformational product for curious humans who want to get smarter about the world every day.

It is too soon to say exactly what this will look like.

Link to the rest at Medium blog and thanks to Sean for the tip.

PG likes some of the writing on Medium, but their problem is anything but new. He recalls participating in similar management discussions about monetizing content almost twenty years ago.

It’s not an easy problem to crack from a supply and demand standpoint when the supply of many types of content is close to infinite.

One of the keys is identifying unique content that is not available everywhere. Authors with unique voices and stories still exist in significant numbers.

While it’s far from perfect, PG thinks Amazon’s overall ecosystem currently does the best job of connecting authors with readers in a manner that rewards authors. That said, there’s still a lot of work to be done before a reader can easily locate the perfect book or article at the time when the reader is ready to read it.

Ever since he encountered the online world, PG has envisioned himself as something like a baleen whale swimming through an ocean of data, constantly sifting tons of information to find mentally nourishing krill.

 

Looking Back at 2016: Important Publishing Developments Authors Should Know

3 January 2017

From Jane Friedman:

The market for adult fiction is primarily a digital one

It’s commonly said that in the United States, overall trade book sales are divided about 70-30 print-digital, and that ebook sales at traditional publishing houses are flat to declining. (You’ve probably heard the celebratory and misleading claims that “print is back!”)

But the latest analysis from Author Earnings shows that when you factor in “nontraditional” publishing sales, the digital share of overall US consumer book purchases changes significantly:

  • 45% of all books purchased in the US in 2016 were digital
  • In adult fiction, sales in the US are roughly 70% digital
  • 30% of all US adult fiction purchases are books by self-published authors

“Nontraditional” sales include self-published work, Amazon’s own imprints, and other sources outside of big trade publishing.

. . . .

Amazon’s market share is growing—across all formats

Industry consultants such as Mike Shatzkin observe that Amazon now has at least 50% of the overall book retail market across print and digital formats. When you study industry reports of print’s buoyancy, and look closely at where the sales are happening, it’s fairly clear that Amazon is stealing away print market share from bricks-and-mortar retailers like Barnes & Noble. And of course Amazon continues to dominate ebook retail, especially as Nook ebook sales continue their decline.

Furthermore, Amazon owns Audible/ACX—the No. 1 audiobook retailer in the US—and has been putting more investment behind the marketing of audiobooks and original audio programming. Over the last couple years, audiobooks have been the top growing format for trade publishers, with about 20-30% growth year on year. Amazon is primed to take advantage of this growth, whether the content comes from traditional publishers or self-publishers.

Finally, there’s Amazon Publishing. Amazon now has 13 active imprints and is the largest publisher of works in translation. In 2016 alone, it’s believed Amazon Publishing will release more than 2,000 titles. (Remember: This isn’t their self-publishing operation—it’s their traditional publishing operation.)

A data point that is unlikely to surprise anyone with knowledge of Amazon: eight of the top 20 Kindle sellers in 2016 were from Amazon’s own publishing imprints.

. . . .

There wasn’t a new blockbuster for publishing in 2016

If you look at the overall bestsellers from last year, many of them weren’t even published in 2016, such as The Girl on the Train. The dry spell was noticed as far back in July, by Publishers Weekly, who pointed out that no new novel had cracked the top twenty print bestsellers in the first half of 2016. Industry observers speculate that current events (the election cycle, terrorist attacks) may have squeezed out book coverage, but also that the division of sales between print and digital formats may be a factor.

But what about the new Harry Potter book, you might ask?

The release of Harry Potter and the Cursed Child lifted sales for its US publisher, Scholastic, as expected. While the power of Potter is real enough and undeniably impressive, what makes this less than boffo news for publishing is that, as Michael Cader writes, “the Potter gain was more of a movement of inventory dollars from new adult books rather than any kind of overall boost to the trade.”

Link to the rest at Jane Friedman and thanks to Alexis for the tip.

The Kindle Effect

31 December 2016

From Fortune:

Consider the metamorphosis of self-publishing. For decades it was dismissed as the desperate refuge of authors rejected by publishing houses, wannabes who paid a fee to a musty vanity press that would dutifully typeset their words and transform them into a few boxes of books that the “writers” could hand out to their friends.

Today, thanks to ebooks and Amazon, self-publishing is a global phenomenon—an independent route intentionally chosen by more and more authors—that has spawned not only mega-bestsellers like Fifty Shades of Grey, but also hits in other realms, such as the movie version of The Martian. Ebook self-publishing has become a $1 billion industry.

But there’s a lot less “self ” in self-publishing these days.

A burgeoning ecosystem of supporting services has sprung up to serve independent authors.

. . . .

 Call it the Kindle effect. Amazon opened the floodgates in 2007, the same year it released its first e-reader, when it launched Kindle Direct Publishing, allowing anyone to upload, publish, and sell his own ebook for free. This year Jeff Bezos’s company released 4 million e-titles, and 40% were self-published.

. . . .

Amazon maintains an 80% share of the electronic-book market, and its rivals have gotten the message. Apple’s iBook (AAPL, -0.78%) and Google Play (GOOGL, -1.30%) now promote self-published authors, while Canadian-based Kobo, which sells books in 180 countries, recently added author services to hire professional editors and book-cover designers. Barnes & Noble (BKS, -3.04%) started a print-on-demand service this summer for self-published writers.

. . . .

Kobo CEO Michael Tamblyn says indie authors drive 20% of the platform’s ebook sales. “They’re selling better than traditional authors,” he says.

Link to the rest at Fortune

Self-Publishing: An Insult To The Written Word

31 December 2016

From The Huffington Post:

As a published author, people often ask me why I don’t self-publish. “Surely you’d make more money if you got to keep most of the profits rather than the publisher,” they say.

I’d rather share a cabin on a Disney cruise with Donald Trump than self-publish.

To get a book published in the traditional way, and for people to actually respect it and want to read it — you have to go through the gatekeepers of agents, publishers, editors, national and international reviewers. These gatekeepers are assessing whether or not your work is any good. Readers expect books to have passed through all the gates, to be vetted by professionals. This system doesn’t always work out perfectly, but it’s the best system we have.

Good writers only become good because they’ve undertaken an apprenticeship. The craft of writing is a life’s work. It takes at least a decade to become a decent writer, tens of thousands of hours. Your favorite authors might have spent years writing works that were rejected. But if a writer is serious about her craft, she’ll keep working at it, year after year. At the end of her self-imposed apprenticeship, she’ll be relieved that her first works were rejected because only now can she see how bad they were.

. . . .

The problem with self-publishing is that it requires zero gatekeepers. From what I’ve seen of it, self-publishing is an insult to the written word, the craft of writing, and the tradition of literature. As an editor, I’ve tackled trying to edit the very worst writing that people plan on self-publishing just because they can.

Link to the rest at The Huffington Post and thanks to Matthew and others for the tip.

PG says it’s wonderful that those who lack native talent and require an extended internship before learning to write decently have traditional publishing to help them along.

PG says it’s also wonderful that those who possess native writing talent and can learn to write more quickly don’t have to wait for some intern in New York to read their email before making their writing available to grateful readers (at a reasonable price) by self-publishing.

.

 

It is with a great sadness that we announce the closing of All Romance eBooks

28 December 2016

From All Romance Ebooks:

It is with a great sadness that we announce the closing of All Romance eBooks, LLC. For the first year since opening in 2006, we will be posting a loss. Despite efforts to maintain and grow our market share, sales and profits have declined. The financial forecast for 2017 isn’t hopeful. We’ve accepted that there is not a viable path forward.

All Romance has always been a labor of love. Over the years we’ve developed wonderful relationships with the vendors we’ve worked with, the publishers whose content it’s been our pleasure to sell, the authors who supported us, and the customers who it’s been our honor to serve. On midnight, December 31 our sites will go dark. Between now and then, we encourage consumers finalize any transactions, download purchases, and back up libraries.

If you directly publish content for sale through our platform or All Romance has acted as your publisher via our Publishing in Partnership program, you should be in receipt of an email from us with additional information. If not, please contact us at info@allromanceebooks.com.

Link to the rest at All Romance Ebooks and thanks to Jacqueline for the tip.

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