Are There Too Many Books?

20 October 2014

From Publishing Perspectives:

At the 66th Frankfurt Book Fair last week, self-publishing and the self-published authors were in the eye of the storm, at the crest of the tsunami wave of the published books worldwide.

The total number of books in print hit 28 million worldwide in 2013 , as calculated by all the titles that acquired ISBNs. In the United States, some 390,000 ISBNs were taken by the self-published authors, while approximately 300,000 were solicited by the traditional trade publishers.

. . . .

A panel featured as part of the International Self-publishing Program, asked the question “Are there too many books?” And the answer, may surprise you.

“No, there are not too many books,” said Jonas Lennermo, CCO of Sweden’s Publit, but with reservations. He noted  that the very idea of the long-tail economy never intended to imply that those books that sell in small quantities — those towards the end of the tail — would be simply sell because of their very existence, of their own accord. The sheer number of books means that the long tail gets too fat, is all but impossible to move. “We need a new idea about how to market the long-tail,” he said.

Joanna Penn, a successful author and entrepreneur, founder of The Creative Penn, was much more direct: “You don’t say to a child to stop painting a picture just because there are too many paintings already in the world.” She finds the explosion of creativity wonderful and rewarding, to both authors and readers. “The publishing is no longer dominated by old white men. We can see new, exciting developments happening, and the diversity we never have had. Today, authors can reach readers beyond any of the traditional industry’s paths. There are niches and micro-niches emerging everywhere: either on the creative or on the receptive side of publishing.”

. . . .

Although the book market is changing with light speed, passion for writing and reading in the publishing industry remains the same. Should Gabriel Zaid have sat among the debaters he would surely have supported the new developments and the varied choice we are enjoying thanks also to brave entrepreneurial authors like Joanna Penn. Shall we have the time to read all 28 million books in our lifetime? Maybe this is not really so important. Or, in Zaid’s words: “The truly cultured are capable of owning thousands of unread books without losing their composure or their desire for more.”

Link to the rest at Publishing Perspectives

Group Hug

15 October 2014

From Hugh Howey:

You want to see progress? Take note that the regular attackers of self-publishing as a career choice have altered their aim and are now just going after those who dare to voice their support of self-publishing. Amazon is their number one target, of course, as the top supporter of the self-publishing path. And anyone who defends Amazon—or who argues that self-publishing is just as viable as (if not superior to) traditional publishing—is also a target.

What you don’t see anymore is anyone daring to argue against the substance of pro self-publishing points. Remember the old attacks and stigmas? They used to be:

1) No one sells books by self-publishing. (Often stated as: The average self-published authoronly sells X books in their lifetime.)

This is rarely trotted out now that dozens of authors have sold millions of titles, hundreds have sold hundreds of thousands of titles, and thousands of authors have sold many thousands of titles. Do all self-published authors have wild success? Of course not. But only 1% of those who submit to agents get published at all. This is finally sinking in, and enough self-published authors have had enough success to put an end to this canard.

. . . .

3) It will end your writing career if you self-publish.

Actually, it’s just as likely to start your writing career. A friend of mine just sold his self-published book to a Big 5 publisher for several hundred thousand dollars. It may have been true at one time that publishers only looked at material if it had never been published anywhere else before, but that was laid to rest a long time ago. The stigma is gone within publishing houses. 50 Shades of Grey selling a bazillion copies changed all that. Everyone is looking for the next hit, whether from YouTube stars, Twitter feeds, blogs, or Redditors.

. . . .

5) Traditional publishers offer much more to the author.

This one is hard to say with a straight face anymore. Publishers take 82.5% and offer less editing, fewer promotion dollars, fewer book tours, less shelf space, and they take your rights for your lifetime plus another 70 years. Or you can pay freelancers, own your work forever, and keep 70% of the list price.

. . . .

But what people like Joe Konrath have been saying for ages is that the economic advantages of self-publishing were too great and that the truth of this would eventually make itself obvious. Now that it has become obvious, the attacks have shifted to the ad hominem variety. People denigrate Jeff Bezos’s character instead of pointing out the options Amazon opens up to the hopeful artist. writes a hit piece accusing me of destroying book culture (and does so with misattributed quotes) instead of pointing out anything wrong with what I’ve said about the positives of self-publishing.

I see all of this as progress. Enormous progress. The substance of our points are now unassailable. All that’s left is for those who want to keep the gatekeepers in place to tear us down and attack us personally.

. . . .

It’s over. We can coexist now. People can publish however they want, with opportunities for moving back and forth from one path to the other. And publishers are going to have to continue to sweeten their offerings to lure authors over to their side, while self-published authors will have to continue to up their game to sway readers to their works.

Link to the rest at Hugh Howey and thanks to Ashe for the tip.

No, You Can’t Track the Growth of Self-Pub by Counting ISBNs

10 October 2014

From Nate Hoffelder at The Digital Reader

The most accurate statement I can make about the growth rate of the indie/author segment of the publishing industry is that it is nebulous at best. This part of the industry is so fuzzy that it can’t be counted, but that hasn’t stopped anyone from trying.

Digital Book World, for example, summarized a press release yesterday which assumed that ISBNs were an accurate measure of growth. The pr was from Bowker, and under the title “Self-Publishing Maturing, Up 17% Last Year in the U.S. “, DBW wrote:

The self-publishing market is entering a new stage of maturity after an initial boom several years ago, according to Bowker’s latest analysis of ISBN registrations in the U.S. from 2008 through 2013.

. . .

Bowker researchers conclude that the self-publishing market is “stabilizing as the trend of self-publisher as business-owner, rather than writer only, continues.”

I will freely admit that I don’t have a clue how to measure the growth of the indie author, but one thing I can tell you is that ISBNs aren’t a valid measure.  ISBNs have about as much relation to measuring the growth of the publishing industry as standardized test scores have to measuring academic progress – in other words, very little.

. . .

To put it simply, no one knows the complete state of the publishing industry, and anyone who claims to do so is selling you something. (In the case of Bowker, they’re giving it away;the report is free.)

Read the full article at The Digital Reader


Bowker’s free report seems to this PG minion as being worth slightly less that what you’ll pay for it.

Piling-up-the-pixels-for-PG vacation guest post by Bridget McKenna

Aspiring authors take e-route to success

9 October 2014

From Ashwin Ahmad at India Today

Books have been man’s best friends forever, and the advent of improved technology, more services and greater awareness has only led to a spurt in self-publishing in India. From online majors such as Amazon to traditional players like Penguin, they are all offering services for aspiring authors and giving them an opportunity to design their own book jackets and set prices. Publishing in India has taken a completely new turn. People in the trade point out that the change has been happening for some time now.


With a large number of aspirant authors taking the new route to publishing, some reputed traditional publishers have ventured into the self-trade as well to give competition to the advantages of self-publishing. Penguin Random House have rolled out what they call esingles, which are short digital-only reads meant for “people who are short on time, fond of reading and want to catch up on some reading during their routine commute or lunch hour”.


Penguin Books India is not alone. Harper Collins Publishing also launched their e-singles service called Harper XXI with genres ranging from crime and romance to sports and business. With prices starting at Rs.20 per story, esingles remain the traditional publisher’s answer to what can only be called the online “blitz”.

Valsakumar points out, “While big players have already made the transformation, it is up to small players to embrace this change quickly as it offers them a better chance in the marketplace.” Having recognised that today’s author, much like the customer, is the ‘king’, traditional publishers have unrolled a bevy of packages which the aspiring author can pick and choose from. Penguin’s new self publishing imprint Partridge, launched in partnership with Author Solutions, offers services ranging from design, illustration, print formatting and distribution to online retailers, international marketing and distribution. The fees can range from Rs.10,000 to over Rs.1.5 lakh, depending on what you choose.

So, president and CEO of Author Solutions Kevin Weiss rightly says, “It is truly the best time in history to be an author.”

Read the rest here.

From Guest blogger Randall

Randall says there’s nothing in this post that would be considered new information to regular visitors to The Passive Voice. The article is from India Today, where the self-publishing revolution is a few years behind the US, UK and other places. Randall was happy to see the warning regarding vanity presses but disappointed to see Authors Solutions mentioned as a viable option. Hopefully self-publishing authors in India will find their way to blogs like this one and learn lessons already hard won by their American brothers and sisters.

Popular on Amazon: Wildly misleading self-published books about Ebola, by random people without medical degrees

6 October 2014

From The Washington Post:

In the past 90 days, some 84 people have self-published Ebola e-books on Amazon, almost half of them in the past month alone. Many of them are popular, crawling their way up the bestseller’ list to sit atop categories, such as health and medicine. Many of them are well-reviewed by their readers, who vow to buy Hazmat suits or start vitamins based on what they’ve read. And many of the books — almost all of them, in fact — contain information that’s either wildly misleading or flat-out wrong.

Welcome to the unscrupulous, conspiracy-filled Wild West of Ebola self-publishing, where an epidemic is less a grave social problem — and more an opportunity to cash in on people’s fears.

“Warning: Ebola could kill 4.1 billion people over the next 24 months!” exclaims the blurb for “Ebola Survival Guide 2015,” currently one of Amazon’s top books on infectious disease. “What you read may in fact save your life or the lives of your friends and families [...] This book may save your life!”

Like clockwork, the entrepreneurial masses churn out new “guides” every time a tragedy or epidemic strikes. (Try searching “ISIS” or “Boston bombing” in the Amazon Kindle store.) But the phenomenon never been quite so pronounced as it is now, perhaps because Ebola’s the first epidemic of the social media age, or perhaps because enough rumor and misinformation are out there that people are willing to turn to anything for aid. Including, apparently, books about infectious disease written by authors who openly admit that they aren’t doctors and aren’t technically qualified to give medical advice.

One book, currently one of Amazon’s best-selling books across the entire medical category — e-books and print — suggests that Ebola will almost definitely become an American epidemic and that only people who stockpile supplies will survive.

Amazon’s self-publishing arm doesn’t tend to take an activist stance on these things; while the site has guidelines for authors, they only prohibit content that’s pornographic or illegal. And while the site does reserve the right to pull self-published books from the store at its discretion, it appears they’ve let a lot of other questionable material stand, including guides to selling illegal drugs and building improvised explosives. (Amazon did not respond to requests for comment.)

And why shouldn’t they, honestly? Fear-mongering seems to be profitable.

Read the rest here. Anyone who was worried that Bezos’ purchase of the Post was to make it some sort of pro-Amazon mouthpeice can relax, I guess.

If I, 1/6th of The Substitute Voice, were making a list of things to blame for this, it might go a little like this:

1) The author

2) The buyer

3) Capitalism

4) Cats

42) Amazon

Also, is Amazon evil because they want to control what gets published, or because they’ll publish anything? This is getting complicated.

~ Dan

Building a Better Industry

4 October 2014

From David Gaughran:

Mike Shatzkin is confused. He can’t seem to understand why self-publishers spend so much time documenting the ills of the publishing industry.

Or, as Shatzkin puts it in one of his typically snappy headlines, “The motivation of the publisher-bashing commentariat is what I cannot figure out.”

. . .

So, why do we care? Is Jamie Ford correct when he claims that we are motivated by bitterness? Was he right when he said that we’re all “people who’ve been told that their baby is ugly”?

. . .

Here are my motivations, in no particular order:

1. I have several friends who are either hybrid authors or traditionally published. I want publishers to reform so that my friends are treated better.

2. Like many, I have a sense of fellow feeling with my colleagues – possibly because writers have been historically treated so poorly (or maybe because I’m a human being who can occasionally rise above considerations of narrow self-interest) – and I want conditions to improve for all authors, however they decide to publish their work.

. . .

5. Some of the things that publishers get up to are simply unconscionable, from using corporate sleight-of-hand to screw authors out of royalties, to profiting from predatory vanity imprints. It’s certainly not in my self-interest to speak up about this crap, but I hate to see writers suffer and cheats prosper, and I can’t abide the hypocrisy/stupidity of FREAKING OUT about what Amazon might do in the future when publishers are doing this stuff today.

. . .

And if the negative criticism from the “publisher-bashing commentariat” outweighs the positive suggestions, I respectfully suggest that’s because it’s much harder to get people to consider an alternative approach if they don’t accept there is a problem in the first place.

DRM doesn’t “prevent piracy,” it causes it. Higher pricing doesn’t “protect the literary way of life,” it is killing it. Writers aren’t being “treated as true partners in the publishing process,” they are being exploited.

Full article and relevant links here.

Link to David Gaughran’s books

Doin’-my-bit-for-PG guest post by Bridget McKenna

Don’t Wait for Permission: Why Authors Should be Entrepreneurs

4 October 2014

From author and TPV rock star David Gaughran:

Joanna Penn (writing as JF Penn) has hit the New York Times and USA Today bestseller lists with her fiction, but also has an extremely popular blog and podcast aimed at writers, as well as several non-fiction books.

I invited her along today to talk about her latest – Business For Authors: How To Be An Author Entrepreneur – in which Joanna provides excellent advice on ALL the ways that authors can monetize both their work and their knowledge/skills. And it’s especially useful for those who don’t fit exactly into the “write genre fiction as fast as possible” model.


Why are you so passionate about authors embracing the entrepreneurial side of things?

This site is all about empowering authors to choose themselves, to take their words out into the world and reach readers directly. It’s about the truly amazing opportunities that authors have when they take action on their dreams. I’m passionate about that too, and now I want to take it one step further.

At the very basic level, an entrepreneur creates value from ideas, which surely is the definition of an author! But more than that, an entrepreneurial author goes beyond just one book into the realm of running a viable business with their writing.


We create art. We manifest our ideas in the world in glorious creative ways, but to be entrepreneurial is to care about the business side as well as the creation. It’s about being excited to generate something new and original, but also being enthusiastic about how the book will reach customers as well as the financial side.

“Entrepreneurs don’t wait for permission”

They act, they experiment, they see what happens and then they pivot if necessary, adapting to the new situation. They are active, not passive, as protagonists are in the best stories. So writing and publishing are only some aspects of this new author life. To be entrepreneurial is to understand the rest of it and make conscious choices as to how you want to run your creative business.


Strategy is also something I’ve learned a lot about as I wrote this book. It’s as much about what you DON’T do, as what you do. As indies, we only have a certain amount of capacity. We have to make decisions about what we will spend our precious time on. Like many authors, I have a list of book ideas that I add to almost every day. I will never have the time to write everything I want to write. I have to choose, and having a strategy helps me. Here are some questions to consider in your strategy:

• What do I want to be known as in 5 years time? When people say my author name, what images, words and emotions will be evoked?

• Should I focus my books into one particular genre or sub-genre and try to dominate that? Or should I spread my bets and write across multiple genres and see what sticks?

• Should I write in a series and try to attract readers who want to binge read multiple books? Or should I write stand-alone books that will enable me to explore my creativity?

Read the rest here. It’s Dave, so ’nuff said.

You can find David’s books here, and Joanna’s books here.

~ Dan

Reinventing Publishing: PW Talks with Claire Cook

30 September 2014

From PW’s Book Life:

Claire Cook, bestselling author of Must Love Dogs, recently made the transition from traditional publishing to self-publishing, choosing to leave her big-five house and agent.

. . . .

Out of all the hats you wear as an indie author, which do you find suit you best, and which takes you out of your comfort zone?

I enjoy all the hats, though I have to admit that wearing them all at once can sometimes get a bit unwieldy. I love writing. I love speaking to groups. I have awesome readers and interacting with them is pure joy. I’m fascinated by the publishing world, and I have always tried to soak up every bit of knowledge I could along the way. I have an entrepreneurial spirit. So I’m crazy busy, but also fully engaged and never bored.

. . . .

What has been the most rewarding part so far of going indie?

I had a wonderful run in traditional publishing for many years, and I’m forever grateful for that. But when things started getting bumpy, no matter how hard I worked, it felt like I couldn’t get close enough to my own career to get it moving again in the right direction. It was such a frustrating situation, and in the end I felt that I had two choices: whine or move on. So taking control of my own career has been rewarding. I’m learning so much, and if I make a mistake, I have the power to fix it. And I’ve never felt closer to my readers, which is the most rewarding part of all.

What has been the most surprising?

That the stigma of [self-]publishing is gone. My readers aren’t the least bit interested in who is publishing my work. They just want to read it. I’ve re-released five of my backlist books and published two new books via Marshbury Beach Books, which I named after the fictional town in my beachy novels. I’m getting plenty of media and blog coverage and speaking invitations for my newest release, Never Too Late, so I don’t think self-publishing has closed those doors either.

Link to the rest at Book Life and thanks to Alison for the tip.

Here’s a link to Claire Cook’s books

Publishing in the Future or the Rise of Independent Authors

27 September 2014

From The Huffington Post UK:

Publishing of tomorrow will be different due to the rise of independent authors, who write and publish their books in more formats, for more audiences and through more channels than ever before. We can see this future already in markets which leave the age of printing books fast to switch to electronic and increasingly mobile books – like China, South Korea or Indonesia. Europe will follow and we should be prepared for the changes. As authors, as publishers or as readers.

Since I joined the publishing world in 2005 a democratization of publishing has taken place, with non-traditional forms of publishing competing for the limited reader´s attention, and I find it gratifying to help texts to find new readers. When I worked for Random House as Director Business Development we were embracing new forms of online and social media marketing and worked to get in direct contact with the readers. The advent of better eInk-devices in 2007 in the US allowed the fledgling markets for ebooks to start growing and we focused first to convert our catalogue of great titles into the new format to be ready for the start of the German market. It took a lot of faith to invest so early in this still small market, to convince the authors to trust us with their electronic publication rights and convert the titles into the new formats.

But it was the right decision, in a couple of years ebooks will overtake print, something not many would have predicted only a short while ago. We saw that growing market and decided to help developing it further and in 2010 Skoobe was conceived, a joint venture of two of Germany´s biggest media companies, Bertelsmann and Holtzbrink to offer a book-flatrate similar to the Netflix-model for movies in the US. Skoobe has since garnered more than one million downloads, a very active user base and 7.942 ratings in Google Play and Apple iTunes with an average of 4.5 out of five stars. We predicted the rise of mobile and tablets for longform reading and the readers love a monthly flatrate and read as much as they want.

. . . .

We realized that books do not only compete with other books anymore, but with all other forms of entertainment, especially on mobile devices. Hence it is crucial to make a large selection available so that everybody can find the right books and do not spend their time on Facebook or other new media platforms.

. . . .

We believe, that the electronic books is actually better than any printed edition, because it is inherently more affordable, more portable and can be individualized to be read in the font size and font type the reader suits best.

. . . .

Marketing is changing as well, and to quote Robert Bidinotto: „Social media has been the great equalizer of advertising, promotion and marketing. This is essentially asymmetrical warfare. No customer going to Amazon knows what is traditionally published or independently published – and they don’t care”. The good news is, that the creativity of authors is even enhanced when unleashed from the traditional, slow and expensive publishing process and the readers can expect more great novels than ever before.

Link to the rest at HuffPo UK

From Comics to Novels

26 September 2014

From author Scott Peterson:

Chuck Dixon is recognized across the industry as the most prolific writer working in comics today. 

His résumé includes thousands of scripts for such iconic characters as Batman, Superman, Green Lantern, Iron Man, the Punisher, The Simpsons, SpongeBob SquarePants and GI Joe.

. . . .

Chuck was almost the first professional comic book writer I met. We worked together on (among many other things) Detective Comics, the flagship title of DC Comics, as well as the birthplace of the Batman. I talked to Chuck recently about moving from comics to novels.
So. Chuck. After 25 years as one of the most prolific comic book writers in the entire industry, writing not only the graphic novel adaptation of The Hobbit but also hundreds of stories for Batman, you’ve turned into a self-published novelist. 

Actually, I prefer “raconteur-at-large.”

Of course you do. What was the hardest part about transitioning to prose?
No artist!

What, if anything, was a pleasant surprise or change?
No artist!

Okay, some joking aside, I had to learn to write real descriptive stuff—actual wordsmithing to create a picture or environment in the reader’s head. In comic scripts I’m describing stuff for the artist to draw. It’s informal and sometimes repetitive. “Nightwing jumps again.” That won’t fly in prose. So I had to put more description in my work. Not too much at first. Then, when I realized I was twenty thousand words short of my contracted length, a whole lot more.

The most pleasant surprise was that novels aren’t like comics in that you don’t have to end on The Big Moment. You’re allowed a denouement. But I still allow myself only brief ones.

. . . .

Have you found that, now that you’re self-pubbing prose novels, you’re able to write stories you wouldn’t have been able to tell in comics? 

In comics I’ve always tried to hold myself to a PG rating, particularly with superhero stuff that attracts kids. And I’m not really into writing comics that have skeevy or gross-out imagery. My target audience there is a precocious ten-year-old. In prose I’m not as restrained. For my novels, my target is a felon doing hard time with limited choices in reading material. I can be more expletive-laden and what my wife likes to refer to as “frank” in my writing.

. . . .

How has self-publishing gone? Is it odd to be on your own?

It’s turned out not to be as scary as freelancing. With series work the more books I add to the series the more I earn. It’s like a reverse Ponzi scheme. With each new addition the earlier books sell more. The payments are monthly and add up to decent money annually. But I still have to put the work in. That’s never bothered me.

Link to the rest at Scott Peterson

Here’s a link to Scott Peterson’s books

and here’s a link to Chuck Dixon’s books

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