Self-publish and be damned happy

22 August 2016

From The New Zealand Herald:

The family story you’ve always meant to write, that set of poems you penned as an angst-­ridden teenager and the history of your local sports club – if you think there’s an audience waiting on your words now is the time.

Self-publishing has never been easier – or cheaper – and hundreds of us are taking the opportunity to tell stories that in the past would not have made it past a publisher’s rejection tray. Modern self-publishing – a far cry from vanity publishing – is usually about pursuing a passion a major publishing com­pany wouldn’t dare take a risk on.

For years, David Appleby ­believed there was an untold story about the New Zealand ­hockey team that won gold at the 1976 Olympics in Montreal. Appleby could have been in that team but pursued his accounting career rather than risk his job for what was then an amateur pursuit.

Four decades on he was able to indulge his passion, self-publishing the hugely successful Striking Gold.

“I was totally foreign to publishing but I thought there was an ­untold story about the guys and their achievement – and there was a need for a legacy document to be put in place while they were all still alive,” Appleby says.

Three years ago Appleby hired Auckland journalist Suzanne ­McFadden to write the story. The rest of the journey unfolded by chance. He bumped into Geoff Walker – former publishing ­director at Penguin – and over a coffee gleaned as much information as he could.

Walker acted as a consultant and introduced Appleby to independent publisher Mary Egan, who ­became the project director – organising the proof reading, design and the printing of the book in ­China. Peter Greenberg was hired as a distributor and Appleby picked up an independent marketing person to help generate publicity.

. . . .

That added to the cost and even though the bulk of the 3000 print run was sold, Appleby didn’t make any money.

“I never intended it to be a ­profit-making exercise. We got good sales to a small target market – but you wouldn’t want to do it for a living. The numbers don’t stack up – but I’m really happy we’ve ­created a legacy document.

“And as [team member] Ramesh Patel said to me – if you don’t sell any books at least you’ve made 16 people happy.”

. . . .

[Professor Grant] Schofield was determined to self-publish the book – which ­espouses a high-fat, low-carbo­hydrate diet – after a negative experience with a publishing company. He and former All Blacks skipper Buck Shelford co-authored a men’s health book, Buck Up, for Penguin.

“First of all you give away all your intellectual property to the ­publisher, which seems wrong at every level, then they rely on you to promote it. And I wanted an ebook but they were against it,” Schofield lamented.

“I kept thinking, ‘I know better than this’ and then I was like, ‘Oh, get serious, these guys have been in it for years and they know best.’ But sometimes being in something for years when things change rapidly puts you in the worst possible position.”

. . . .

Schofield admits he and his team made errors – the ­design and ­photography could be better – and he wishes they’d taken a leaf out of ­Annabel Langbein’s recipe books.

“In terms of writing recipes ­Annabel Langbein does it ­superbly. We should have just gone to her book, looked at her templates and copied it. In hindsight not doing that is so dumb it’s unbelievable.”

They were smart enough to look on the inside cover of a Langbein book for the name of her publisher – Asia Pacific Publishing.

Despite the mistakes, the book has been a smash, selling 20,000 copies and spawning a spin-off ­ebook dedicated to a high-fat, low-carb diet for athletes.

Schofield said the main lessons he has learned are to trust your own ideas and follow what you believe.

“Regardless of any success, ­initially we wanted something we could be proud of, which drove the passion for it, thank goodness, because I think if you sat down and did a business plan you probably wouldn’t do it.”

Schofield hadn’t intended to try to sell What The Fat? in book shops but once word got around he was soon ­getting calls from Whitcoulls and Paper Plus asking to stock the book because so many people had been asking about it.

Link to the rest at The New Zealand Herald

Aspiring authors set up their own publishing company

19 August 2016

From the Grimsby Telegraph (UK):

A global not-for-profit publishing company has been launched by a group of proactive writing students here in Grimsby.

A group of first-year professional writing students at University Centre Grimsby (UCG) have set up their own publishing company Hammond House Publishing.

Among its 35 members are published authors from the US, Australia and Hong Kong.

The group is open to all writers and is not just exclusive to students.

. . . .

“The purpose of our company is to provide support to aspiring writers,” he said.

“Like a lot of aspiring authors are aware, it is increasingly difficult to get published. We’ve had a lot of feedback from writers who have decided to self-publish as they’ve found it so difficult and expensive.

“So it is our aim to allow independent authors to publish their own work.”

The company is being self-funded but the group are seeking sponsorship from local companies. However, it does raise money through its £10 yearly membership fee.

Link to the rest at Grimsby Telegraph

$100 Million Pledged to Authors, Publishers, Book Shops, Poets, Podcasters, and More

19 August 2016

From the Kickstarter Blog:

We’re thrilled to announce today that $100 million has been pledged to Publishing projects on Kickstarter. Since we launched seven years ago, authors, publishers, book shops, poets, podcasters, and more have brought their creative projects to life with the generous support of the Kickstarter community.

Here’s a look at some more of the numbers behind this milestone:

Publishing Statistics (28 April 2009 — 10 August 2016)

  • Amount pledged: $100,000,000
  • Projects launched: 33,009
  • Projects successfully funded: 9,660
  • Creators who have launched more than one successfully funded Publishing project: 608
  • Successfully funded creators who have backed at least one other project: 6,414
  • Number of backers: 1,226,438
  • Number of countries those backers have come from: 211
  • Number of times they have pledged to a project: 1,673,631
  • Number of publishing projects supported by the backer who has pledged to more publishing projects than anyone else: 364

Link to the rest at Kickstarter Blog and thanks to M for the tip.

A Puzzle Book with Locked Pages

18 August 2016

From Slate:

Beautifully produced books have become coveted objects in a digital world. But young industrial designer Brady Whitney has taken the idea of book as object a step further with Codex Silenda—an intriguing wooden book whose pages you can turn, and story you can unlock, only after solving a different mechanical puzzle on each of its thick, laser-cut, hand-assembled pages.

Whitney came up with the puzzle book hybrid idea for his senior thesis research project at Iowa State University and has turned his inspired idea into an intriguing Kickstarter project that has already surpassed its original funding goal of $30,000 many times over.

The Codex requires readers to solve a puzzle to unlock the bolt that leads to the next page of a story about an apprentice in Da Vinci’s workshop, but the book can also be personalized with your own story (attention puzzle and book nerd couples with milestone anniversaries looming or engagement proposals to plan)

Link to the rest at Slate and thanks to Matthew for the tip.

PG says this is a different twist on self-publishing.

Here’s the Kickstarter video:

There’s More Than One Way to Publish. I Know. I Tried Many of Them

9 August 2016

From author Allison Winn Scotch via Publishers Weekly:

Here is what I love about being an author: spinning a story from nothing, losing myself to a scene, connecting with readers who become friends, planning my life schedule around my writing schedule, wearing yoga pants as a uniform.

Here is what I love less about being an author: marketing and selling my book. If it were up to me, I’d never have to encourage, tweet, nudge, implore, or beg readers to pick up my books. It’s excruciatingly awkward, so very “look at me, please like me, please pick me!” that one is left feeling like a third grader on the playground waiting to be chosen for red rover.

My first novel was published nearly a decade ago, before the onslaught of social media, before the burden to sell a book fell so heavily on an author. As we all joined Twitter (and Facebook and Instagram and Snapchat), we were told that our social media feeds could determine the fates of our books. Perhaps not in those words explicitly, but we were told that all the same—we authors who really just wanted to get lost behind the veil of our characters.

As I approached the completion of my sixth novel, I knew that I didn’t have that in me, to retweet every single blogger review on the hopes that it would boost my Amazon rating. I had run that race before, and mostly, I felt like I had lost that race before, too. I had been at three different publishing houses, primarily due to editorial shifts, imprint closures (Shaye Areheart Books was a true dream before it closed), and a whole host of changing winds. I had been touched with good fortune and less-good fortune; I’d befriended brilliant editors and been left to twist in those changing winds.

In an attempt to regain control of my career (and to be honest, my sanity), I chose to self-publish my fifth book, and I loved it, every single aspect of it: the control, yes, but also the freedom that that control brought me. Every decision was my own, including whom I hired, when I published, and how much I charged for the novel. It was exhilarating—the sales were substantial—and I came back from the brink of leaving publishing.

When I wrapped my sixth book, In Twenty Years, I wanted to self-publish again, but my agent suggested Lake Union, an imprint at Amazon. I was admittedly hesitant about both, but ultimately, I realized that Amazon was offering me what I was looking for all along: an unparalleled marketing platform, smart price points, fast release dates.

I signed my contracts, and the differences were clear pretty immediately: I was paid my advance within weeks; I was shown multiple cover options; I was emailed a survey asking how Amazon could make me happier. I suggested an audio narrator, who was hired; I was sent a new Kindle as part of a congratulatory package.

Link to the rest at Publishers Weekly and thanks to Dave for the tip.

Here’s a link to Allison Winn Scotch’s books. If you like an author’s post, you can show your appreciation by checking out their books.

Authors Need Publishers Less than Ever

7 August 2016

From Book Business:

As self-publishing continues evolving, it strikes me that traditional publishers are losing one of our most important services for authors: bookstore distribution. The very distributors publishers have relied upon for years are hedging their bets (and expanding their revenues) by tapping into the self-publishing market. For example, both Ingram and BookBaby offer authors distribution to chain and independent bookstores. And the Espresso Book Network continues to expand a new retail solution for bookshops, libraries, and others. Not to mention the obvious: more and more consumers simply prefer buying print books and ebooks from Amazon.

More than just distribution, though, these new upstarts also offer the production tools needed to easily produce print books and ebooks. So there goes the production expertise competitive advantage of many publishers.

. . . .

Any author can buy editing services. Any author can hire a book PR firm with social media expertise and mainstream media connections. And now any author can gain distribution to all the places their titles are currently sold.

There are many good authors frustrated at how fast they are forgotten in the Big Houses who pump out thousands of titles per year. I would think a lot of authors would rather hire the editorial and marketing services they choose on their own dime, using a portion of the extra royalties they receive from self-publishing at both book launch and as part of a sustained multi-year effort. To take complete control of their own book’s destiny, as opposed to assigning it to a company operating with high employee turnover and low morale. (Take a look at the recent Glassdoor ratings of the Big 5 as an indication of current employee morale.)

I believe this threat is greater for books than it would be for some other product type. Authors pour everything they have, over many years, into writing their beloved books. Giving their babies away to others is a big risk, especially for those who feel burned or overlooked in the past.

All it takes to demoralize an author working with a Big 5 publisher is to lose your editor in a layoff. Without that internal champion, you are sunk. The ensuing organizational chaos that follows just makes it more painful. This is a huge gamble on a co-dependent relationship where neither side typically feels great about it all the time.

The big strategic question for publishers is increasingly becoming how much does an author need to pay you to provide equal or better services available from somewhere else?

Link to the rest at Book Business and thanks to Alexis for the tip.

Airline buys 2,000 copies of self-published bedtime story for night flights

6 August 2016

From The Guardian:

A father who tried self-publishing the bedtime story he made up for his daughters has landed a surprise order of 2,000 copies from Virgin Atlantic to help children sleep on night flights.

Stephen Holmes, who works in data management, has been telling his daughters Madison and Ella a tale about two children who go on a magical balloon ride for years. Madison, who is now seven, finally convinced him to publish it earlier this year. They found an illustrator, Kev Payne, online, and Holmes ordered a print run of 1,000 copies of The Great Hot Air Balloon Adventure, thinking he would sell the book to family and friends, and at local fairs and fetes.

Holmes has now sold around half of that number, but after he decided to “try his luck” and send the book to Virgin Atlantic, he was shocked to discover that the company loved it, and ordered 2,000 copies to give away on night flights.

Link to the rest at The Guardian

Fife farmer achieves six-figure publishing deal after 20 years of rejection and pain

3 August 2016

From The Daily Record:

Twenty years of rejection from publishers would make most aspiring authors give up.

But not James Oswald, who decided to self-publish his debut novel online instead.

He said: “The idea was to give it away for free.

“I expected a few hundred downloads but before long it was 50,000 – and then it went to No1 and stayed there for six weeks.

“Combined, my first three books sold more than 350,000 downloads and that brought me to the attention of publishers who had rejected me for years.”

. . . .

After six books featuring workaholic Edinburgh detective Tony McLean, you could be forgiven for thinking James is reaping the rewards of a six-figure publishing deal.

But he prefers to keep working on the 350-acre cow and sheep farm in Fife he inherited from his parents, who died in a road crash in 2008.

He said: “I work on the farm then write at night, or whenever I can find the time.”

Link to the rest at The Daily Record

Here’s a link to James Oswald’s books.

For Indie Authors, Positioning Is Key

2 August 2016

From Publishers Weekly:

We already know that more books than ever are being published these days. Figures for 2014 report more than 300,000 books traditionally published and 458,564 self-published. The rise of indie publishing has brought with it many more books, and a surge of new voices. There is much to celebrate about the rise of the independent author/publisher, and yet, looking at these numbers, you can see why industry folks are overwhelmed.

If the number of books being traditionally published represented an already steady stream of titles coming into the world every year, then self-published titles are a fire hose. This is why it’s imperative that indie authors do their research and spend time learning how to think like an industry insider, or hire outside people who have industry experience to maximize their chances for success.

One simple thing every indie author can do before they publish is to consider their positioning. Positioning is marketing term that refers to the way in which a book is angled to consumers, and by extension retail and media outlets. Books are largely positioned based on genre and category, but positioning is further articulated through title, subtitle, descriptive content, keywords, and blurbs. Positioning decisions can also downplay a certain theme by highlighting another that’s more saleable. For instance, addiction sells better than sexual abuse, so a memoir that has both might be highlight the addiction—in its title, subtitle, descriptive copy, and blurbs—and underplay or not even mention the abuse narrative, even though it’s there.

Positioning is often a point of confusion for authors who don’t have marketing backgrounds. I’ve worked with many authors who resent or don’t even consider the notion that certain elements of their book might need to be pared down, or simplified, or edited out entirely from their marketing or jacket copy. Positioning can feel like pigeonholing, or dumbing down, depending on the author’s mindset around such things.

Link to the rest at Publishers Weekly

Self Published Title is Kobo’s Most Read Crime Novel of All Time

28 July 2016

From Kobo Writing Life:

Rakuten Kobo, a leading innovator in the digital reading space, joins WHSmith as a sponsor of the Theakston Old Peculier Crime Writing Festival taking place this week. In celebration of all things crime, Kobo is releasing insights from an independent survey of the British public and its own user database, which reveals the insights about crime readers and predicts where crime writing may head in the future.

Move over Miss Marple and watch out Watson, because when it comes to the general public’s favourite character from crime novels, it seems one quirky man has definitely won over the hearts of the British public. He may be more than 100 years old, but when asked to choose their favourite character from classic crime novels from seven well-known and well-loved characters, Sherlock Holmes was voted the favourite by every age, gender and location, garnering almost a third of the entire vote!

. . . .

When it comes to crime readers’ favourite reads, Katia Lief’s One Cold Night comes out on top as the number one best-selling crime novel of all time on the entire of Kobo’s platform in the UK. One Cold Night also topped the bestsellers list for self-published titles. Mark Sennen’s Tell Tale: A DI Charlotte Savage Novel tops the best read, with 100% of those who opened the book getting right to the end! The top British crime author of all time, with the most sales across all their books is Lee Child, followed by James Patterson in second place.

Whilst older women may make up the largest demographic of crime readers on the Kobo platform, when asked what genre they would primarily choose to write in when penning their own novel, it seems that the younger generation are the ones who will drive the genre forward with 43% of 25-34 year olds wanting to become authors of their own crime novels. Interestingly, although those over 55 make up a large percentage of crime readers, they were the age group least inclined to add to the genre they love, with 72% saying they would not like to write their own novel.

. . . .

When asked what themes they’d like to see addressed in crime novels, artificial intelligence was the single most popular with (34%) closely followed by virtual reality (25%).

Link to the rest at Kobo Writing Life

For those TPV visitors who don’t use Kobo, here’s the Amazon author page for Ms. Lief.

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