How To Get Started (And Get Ahead) In Science Fiction Self-Publishing

1 July 2015

From i09:

To self-publish or not to self-publish… That is the question more and more aspiring authors are asking themselves these days. And with good reason—self-publishing has come a long way in the decade since it really hit the market and many of the blatant scams of the past have been outed by an increasingly well-informed author community. With the popularity of ebooks and the rise of print-on-demand (POD), self-publishing has become a viable route to success as an author. It certainly hasn’t replaced traditional publishing, but the two paths are starting to coexist in the same mass market.

As an author I have successfully pursued both the traditional and self-publishing routes – funny enough with the same books. My first two military sci-fi novels were originally self-published and they did well enough to attract the eye of the traditional world. I’m very pleased to announce that the first of them, Virtues of War, is being re-released by Titan Books at the end of June, with two more on the way.

. . . .

1. Read Widely

If you’re a huge fan of a particular sci-fi franchise – Doctor Who, say, or Honor Harrington – I strongly recommend you start reading a selection of sci-fi books that are completely outside your favourite before you start writing. The most successful sci-fi franchises have their own unique elements, and many of these elements are so widely associated with the franchise that if you were to employ them in your own writing you’d be very quickly branded as an imitator. If you’re writing fan fiction based in the franchise that’s fine, but it can be disastrous if you’re creating something original. So read widely to make sure you have an appreciation of what the sci-fi community sees as clichés, tropes and/or proprietary ideas.

Another reason to read widely is simple: you’ll have a much larger pool of inspiration to draw from when you do sit down to write. Maybe you’ve always read space opera and never cared much for hard sci-fi. Reading some classic Arthur C. Clarke may not transform you into a hard sci-fi author, but it may give you some really interesting ideas on how to make your space opera unique.

. . . .

 4. Engage the Community

Marketing a book is hard. It’s even hard for the Big Five publishers in New York – they just have millions of dollars to throw at the problem. I’m going to guess that you don’t, and I’m going to strongly recommend that you stay far away from any kind of marketing or advertising that costs a lot of money. Print, TV and radio advertising are out. Don’t hire a publicist unless they’re willing to work solely on a commission from book sales. To market a self-published book, you the author need to get engaged directly with your potential fans.

Enter the internet. There are thousands of sci-fi community groups online, and they’re usually wide open to new members. The future fans of your book hang out in these places, and because they like the same sort of sci-fi you do, you’ll probably enjoy mixing it up on the forums about existing sci-fi books, movies and TV shows. Your purpose here is to make friends and, ideally, become a bit of an opinion leader through your witty, succinct and profound commentary – or just being yourself, that works too. You absolutely do NOT want to start peddling your book as that is generally frowned upon.

The key to engaging your community of future fans is to start early – months before your book is even launched. Be sincere, be friendly, and be actively engaged. When your book does launch, it’s totally okay at that point to announce it to your community, because by then you’re a known entity and people kinda like you. After your launch, though, you need to get back to just being a frequent contributor to the discussions, although a link to your book’s webpage at the bottom of each post is a perfectly acceptable way to offer ongoing, soft promotion.

Link to the rest at i09 and thanks to Dave for the tip.

Reader analytics as a self-editing tool

26 June 2015

From Futurebook:

Comma Press is working on a research project, in collaboration with Manchester Metropolitan University and, to explore disruptive (forgive me) approaches to three key issues facing the publishing industry: audiobooks, content-discovery and open-analytics.

To this end, we’re about to launch a digital self-publishing platform called MacGuffin [in pre-launch beta]. Free to use for readers and writers, it’s designed to help authors target a sample of their writing — particularly short stories and poetry — to a specific readership.


We want to learn whether self-publishing authors can be encouraged to follow the lead of amateur podcasters, who’ve shown in recent years that technological barriers to entry have fallen away. So MacGuffin hosts text and audio. Writers must upload a reading of their work along with the text, in order to publish it; end-users can read, listen, and toggle between the two (MacGuffin will be available as a website and an app for iOS and Android).

But this kind of DIY approach to audiobooks is about reader expectations, too. Does recording have to be done in a professional studio, by an actor, to be enjoyable? Lots of authors who’ve tried the MacGuffin beta have uploaded beautifully-performed readings with flawless audio. But on some of my favourites, you can hear birdsong in the background, or a dog barking in the distance, or the sound of kids playing in an adjacent room. Will readers feel the same way? We don’t yet know.

. . . .

We’re experimenting with a “broad-folksonomy” model of content curation.

In layman’s terms, this means that any user can add hashtags to anyone else’s work. Tagging is something of a blunt tool when only a few people do it, but as more content is added and tagged, we hope it’ll accrue into a huge database of really searchable literature. This opens up all kinds of functionality for users: searching for multiple tags means readers can quickly narrow down what they’re looking for, so a crime fiction fan with a 25-minute commute might search for #crime #25minutelisten.

Publishers or spoken-word nights can upload samples of content, grouped together under a tag. Readers can create lists to share (e.g. #sundaysonnets #jimsslipstreamstories). Kind of like in the old days, when you’d make mix-tapes for your friends — on MacGuffin, you can do this with poetry and stories.

. . . .

Perhaps most controversially, MacGuffin has open-analytics. Anyone can see the “drop-out points” — where (anonymised) readers quit a story or poem before the end — plotted onto a graph. While I expect that many writers will find this unnerving, it undoubtedly has some potential as a self-editing tool – you can identify that weak scene in your story where you’re losing readers, then republish it.

It doesn’t give the whole picture, of course (the readers dropping out might have poor taste!), but at the same time, ushering readers from the start to the finish of a text is undeniably something a writer ought to be interested in.

During the beta test, we found that most stories and poems typically have a lot of drop-outs right at the start of the text or audio (sometimes over 50% during the first 10% of a story or poem). It seemed readers were scanning the first few lines of text, or listening to a few seconds of audio, then deciding it wasn’t for them. I panicked a bit at first, until I took a look at some of the public domain classics we’d uploaded, for comparison. It seems this simply reflects the way we browse literature, whether digitally, or picking up a book in a bookstore: scanning the first few lines, then deciding it’s not for us, and moving on to something else. The really useful drop-out stats for authors seem to come after that initial bedding-in phase, where you’ve won the reader’s confidence, only to loose it again with a miss-step in plotting or pacing or tone.

Link to the rest at Futurebook

Estelle Maskame: how social media made me a publishing sensation

25 June 2015

From The Guardian:

I’ve always loved the satisfaction of having people read a story I wrote. All throughout school, there was nothing I enjoyed more than my teachers reading stories I’d scribbled down on scraps of paper, but by the age of 11, I was writing full-length novels alone in my room, storing them on my laptop, where no one else ever laid eyes on them. Yet I felt I was missing out on that excitement of hearing someone’s feedback, of finding out that someone had enjoyed what I’d written. It didn’t feel the same without sharing.

Eventually I decided that I needed a way to show my work to people. I’d left primary school and wasn’t comfortable enough to show it to any teachers at my new academy yet, and I was too embarrassed to show my parents and friends. One night, I did some research online and came across some writing websites where people could post their work and give each other feedback. At first, I was slightly apprehensive. There were a lot of people on these websites, of all different ages and nationalities, and I wasn’t sure if these strangers would like my writing or not. I was worried any negative comments would discourage me, but I thought I’d give it a shot anyway, and at the age of thirteen, back in 2010, I started posting my writing online.

. . . .

When I finished the first novel I’d ever written, I started posting DIMILY (which stands for Did I Mention I Love You), and these same readers started reading my new work.

At the same time, I started to become really active on Twitter @EstelleMaskamebecause for a lot of teenagers the internet can be a safe haven, and I probably spent more time talking to people online than I did talking to people in real life. And so during 2012, a year after DIMILY had been online, I decided to ask some of these Twitter friends to read my work. I’d never synced Twitter and my writing until then, but I gradually began to realise that using social media to promote my work could potentially be extremely beneficial.

These couple of friends agreed to read my work, and they loved it. All it took was for them to tweet about DIMILY a few times, and then I had people asking, “What’s DIMILY? Where can I read it?” I jumped at the chance to send these curious people the link, and they’d read it and tweet about it too.

. . . .

Around the same time, I discovered Wattpad. It’s the largest online writing community by far and it was absolutely daunting at first, but I posted what was written of DIMILY so far. I let my readers on Twitter know that I’d moved websites, so I instantly had readers who bumped up the read count from the moment I posted it. Wattpad has millions of users and the hits started racking up quickly. I posted my work on Wattpad but promoted it on Twitter, directing people back to Wattpad.

Before I knew it, I had people tweeting me asking when I’d be posting the next chapter, people discussing the latest chapter with each other and others simply freaking out. I’d let people know what date and time the next chapter would be posted, and in the lead-up to it I’d post sneak peeks and hints about the chapter to get them excited. The hour before I was due to post a chapter, my mentions on Twitter were always full of people waiting and counting down, so the moment a chapter went up, everyone was reading it at the exact same time. Everyone would live-tweet their reactions while reading and would often discuss the chapter for hours after it was posted.

This grew into what we called “update nights”, which really helped to motivate and inspire me to keep going.

. . . .

Using social media to promote my work means that I’ve got a close connection with my readers, especially now, because they’ve been with me since the early days. In a way, we’re all in this together, and ever since the start, I’ve always loved going on Twitter to interact with them. They love the books so much that they even help me promote it. Twitter also has an amazing community of other aspiring writers and book bloggers. It’s incredible the way people across social media can interact simply because of our love for writing and reading.

So I ended up with four million hits on Wattpad.

Link to the rest at The Guardian and thanks to Meryl for the tip.

Here’s a link to Estelle Maskame’s book

Money, Fame, Notoriety: What Are We Self-Publishing For?

25 June 2015

From Locus:

Like a lot of new writers, I got through years and years of rejection slips by believing I was simply misunderstood.

I suppose you could chalk a lot of this up to being young. But I also knew very little about writing, or publishing, or how to tell a good story. That trifecta of ignorance led me to invest in a lot of publishing conspiracy theories, so it amuses me these days to see so many new writers engaged in the same conversations about publishing cabals. Good books get re­jected all the time, yes. Bad books can make lots of money, yes. It helps if you know people in publishing if you want to get published, yes.

. . . .

Like many writers who came up in the business be­fore self-publishing was virtually free, I’m relieved I didn’t have access to modern-day self-publishing tools. The ease with which one can publish freely on­line today is both a blessing and a curse. It’s fabulous that authors have so many options now. Did your pub­lisher not pick up the third book in your trilogy? Self-publish it. Is your new experimental book not finding a home after that bestselling fantasy series finished its run with numbers that were sort of ‘‘meh’’? Self-publish it! Do you have short story collections with award-winning stuff that no one will buy be­cause ‘‘there’s no money in short fiction’’? Now you have options.

Yet the vast majority of folks self-publishing today aren’t professional authors with quality work to sell, and they aren’t misunderstood geniuses. Most of those who choose self-publishing right out of the gate don’t have hundreds of rejection slips in a folder somewhere. Many are like me at 18 or 19, people with a few years of writing stories under their belts, who are really frustrated that no one will buy their work, or who simply don’t have the time or inclination to figure out where to start with getting published at smaller and then bigger houses, or who feel publishing is just one vast conspiracy where people only publish writers they know (it does make it easier). Publishing is a messy business. I get that it’s easier to put some­thing online and pray that the money rolls in than it is to slog through the underbelly of publishing slush piles for decades.

But here’s your spoiler for the year: the money probably isn’t going to roll in, no matter how you publish. The odds are stacked against you either way. In truth, unless you already have a built-in audience from your blog, your traditionally published work, your Youtube channel, or your Instagram account, you probably aren’t even going to make back what you spent to make your cover art for that self-published collection.

. . . .

This is what worries me when I see so many young writers in particular run off to publish work themselves. Writing a novel isn’t a get-rich quick scheme, and self-publishing a novel isn’t a golden ticket to becoming a better writer. Whether you self-publish or traditionally publish a book, if you’re waiting for some kind of external validation for your work, you aren’t going to get it from publishing.

. . . .

I’m not a fan of the rejection grind either, but one thing the rejection grind motivated me to do was to become a better writer. It forced me to focus on craft and look for writing workshops and peer groups, to study other writers’ work, to keep writing new stories, and trying different methods to see what worked. As I leveled up, I started to get more story acceptances.

. . . .

The grind never ends. That’s one of things I worry the straight-to-self-publishing school is teaching people – that just writing ‘‘the end’’ is al­ways going to be enough. That simply finishing a work – though certainly a good first step – is the same as being a great storyteller. We’re in this to be fabulous storytellers, aren’t we? Maybe that’s just me.

The rush folks are taking to publication, in many cases, tells me many see a book as a lottery ticket, or a ticket to fame or respectability. Many are looking for validation for their work and seeing sales and getting reader reviews are what motivates them.

I’m in this to be an exceptional writer.

Link to the rest at Locus and thanks to Alexis for the tip.

New Struggles in Self-Publishing

24 June 2015

From author Dave Farland:

I hesitate to mention problems with self-publishing. In some genres, such as romance or self-help books, the industry is doing great. But for those who are trying to sell fiction, it seems that the markets are contracting, and it appears that things will go from bad to worse.

If you’ve been self-publishing for the past few years, you probably remember the good old days. For example, a few years ago I put my novel The Golden Queen up as a free e-book for a week and forgot about it. I was going to mention on my social media what I had done, but seriously got busy with something else. Three days later, I got an email from someone who said, “Why don’t you take your free e-book down and let someone else have a shot at the #1 spot.” I’d given away 15,000 copies in three days, and had sold thousands of dollars in inventory on the other two books in the series.

. . . .

With e-books, you can’t sell them unless you can advertise them. Of course, the folks at Amazon try to set their rates at about $1.70 a click on their advertisements. If every potential buyer who clicked on an advertisement actually bought a book, that would be a good deal. But in most cases, fewer than 1 in 10 people who click on a book ad will actually buy the book. Unfortunately, in my studies, Facebook ads don’t pay for themselves, and neither do any other kinds of ads that are sold online. That’s why we don’t see a lot of ads for books from major publishers online.

. . . .

Let’s say that you put your new book up for sale on Amazon. You tell all your friends and family, and get folks to announce it to their friends. You do a big blog party and get blogs up on twenty sites besides your own. Your book comes out … and it’s a blip on Amazon’s radar.

Amazon has lots of other books for sale. You’re a little blip. How do they know to promote your book?

Well, they have to look for independent verification. So they look at the number of reviews that you have on Amazon and on Goodreads. They try to make sure that the reviews are from real buyers instead of sock puppets. They look at the ratings given to the book in the form of stars, and then they decide whether to begin cross-promoting your book.

If you’ve got a book that has a high velocity of sales and an extremely high customer satisfaction rating, they’ll help promote your book, and that can be a great thing.

But here’s the problem: The people who get the highest velocity of sales almost always already have a pretty good customer base. They’ve got say 50,000 fans. If you’re a brand new author, you might have a great book, but you very likely don’t have 50,000 fans. So even if you do get picked up for promotion, you won’t get promoted heavily or for very long.

Meanwhile, let’s say that a new author comes out with a traditionally published book in hardcover and it gets put on the New Release shelf at Barnes and Noble. Hundreds of thousands of book buyers will walk by the shelf and see it. That book has visibility that your book doesn’t. Indeed, if people like it, they can take a picture of the ISBN number and order the book as an e-book right away. That’s how many e-books are bought.

Of course, the big publishers charge more for your e-book than you would like, but Amazon respects that. In fact, their algorithms will place higher-priced books onto the bestseller lists above books that are sold above deep discount. Thus, if you put your book online for 99 cents and promote it widely, you might make lots of sales, but you won’t make traction onto the bestseller list.

Link to the rest at David Farland and thanks to Christine for the tip.

Here’s a link to David Farland’s books

Be Careful Pulling That Self-Pub Trigger

24 June 2015

From author Jeffe Kennedy:

I’m not usually the one to give self-publishing advice. That’s because, while I’ve done a bit of it – a couple of backlist books (Petals and Thorns and Negotiation) – I’ve put a lot more focus on the traditional path. There are a lot of reasons for that, which aren’t really pertinent to today’s point, though I’m happy to talk about it if anyone wants to know.) That said, I will be doing more of self-publishing in the future, including a fab anthology project and an exciting secret something with Grace Draven.

Still, I feel like I should say something to up-and-coming writers who decide to self-publish.

Apparently there’s a lot of bad advice out there, because this particular question keeps coming up on my author loops. A gal going to RWA Annual Conference asked for advice on pitching to agents and editors. Which is great that she’s asking! I pitched for many years and it’s not easy. However, she said that she self-published the first book in her series and it’s not doing well, but the second book is almost ready. She wondered if she should pitch the first book or the second.

The answer? NEITHER.

. . . .

We all read the stories about the self-pubbed book that gets picked up by a major publisher because it did so astonishingly well. This makes for great news in part because it’s SO RARE. It doesn’t seem like it, because the stories are so high profile, but statistically this is hugely unlikely to happen. This is one of the very worst reasons to self-publish, especially the first book in a planned series. Seriously. Here’s why.

If the self-published book does not do astronomically well – and that means tens of thousands of copies – then a traditional publisher will not want it. That’s just the facts of the industry. The book has been market-tested and will hold no appeal for a traditional publisher. Which means that an agent will not want to represent it, because they know they can’t sell it to a publisher. Simple logic.

Also, pretty much no publisher will pick up the second book in a series. There are some exceptions to this. Occasionally a traditional publisher will drop a series after two books and another will pick up the third. But again, this happens when the original series did decently and I’ve only heard of it working when a bigger traditional publishing house drops it and a smaller, usually digital-first, publisher picks it up. I don’t know of any cases where they’ve picked up more than one book. It’s really a gamble that lovers of the series will buy that final book to round out a trilogy. With a series, most traditional publishers want to control the packaging and marketing from the beginning.

. . . .

Sure, self-publish a series! But commit to that path for it and don’t look at self-publishing the first book as a stepping stone to getting it traditionally published. It *can* open the doors to having another series traditionally published. But once that first book is out there, it’s out.

Link to the rest at Jeffe Kennedy and thanks to Glinda for the tip.

Here’s a link to Jeffe Kennedy’s books

PG thinks it’s likely that Jeffe’s advice is accurate if you really want to be traditionally published.

What struck him about this post, however, was that “don’t self-publish your first book and expect anyone to want to publish your second book” is yet another unwritten rule governing the world of agents and publishers. This business is as full of unwritten rules as the court of Louis XIV.

The whole atmosphere is one that seems calculated to make an author timid and uncertain. Acting in manner that would be perfectly acceptable for creating a relationship with a reasonable business could be all wrong.

Do not speak to a publisher unless spoken to. An agent must always carry your message to a publisher. You must approach the agent in the precise manner the agent specifies. Remain kneeling until given permission to rise. Don’t wear too much makeup. Keep your hands clasped and your knees together.

The Real Price of Traditional Publishing

23 June 2015

From Dean Wesley Smith:

This new world of publishing now allows authors to make many publishing choices after they finish a book. That’s a great thing compared to just ten years ago.

Now an author can go the old traditional route, they can go full indie and do everything. Or they can publish somewhere in the middle, taking responsibility for all the work, but hiring out parts, or all of the tasks needed to be done.

A thousand choices in the process now. And that’s a very, very good thing for authors in the abstract.

But all choices have costs. This post is about the costs of going traditional with your novel.

. . . .

As electronic books came into a true reality over the last six or so years (ignoring the 15 years of sputtering before that), traditional publishers started to adjust to meet the new world. It does not seem like they did from the outside, but they have in many, many ways. And are still adjusting.

And as indie publishing ate into the sales numbers of the traditional publishers and their authors, and discoverability became an issue for traditional publishers just as it always was for indie authors, traditional publishers had to adjust even more.

No traditional publisher would survive in 2015 with only paper books and their old trade channels. Most traditional publishers now say that electronic is from 20-35% of their entire income. They work on 5% margins with high overhead. They would not survive in any form that we know without electronic income and low author costs for that electronic income. So because traditional publishers needed to, they have adjusted in many ways.

. . . .

First adjustment: Author advances against royalties went down almost across the board.

A standard genre advance is now in the $3,000 range. A lead list title can get a little more, but inside most genres, advances for all but the major bestsellers are now far under $10,000 for most books.

Second adjustment: Contract terms changed to “life of copyright” and reversion clauses became useless.

In the last two years I have seen a couple dozen author contracts from various traditional houses. “Life of Copyright” is always a non-negotiable contract term in the United States if you are a normal-level writer.

Link to the rest at Dean Wesley Smith and thanks to James for the tip.

Here’s a link to Dean Wesley Smith’s books

Breaking Out of the Cage

22 June 2015

From author Gaelen Foley:

After 16 years of being continuously under contract with Big 5 publishers–
which also meant being continuously on deadline nonstop for 16 years—I decided upon completion of my 20th book (not counting several middle grade novels) that I owed it to myself to finally take a bit of a breather.

So I did.

I turned in the last installment of the very long and very complex Inferno Club series, pretty well exhausted by that project, and in need of some time to rest, reboot, reinvent—and digest the seismic shifts going on in the publishing industry.

Behind the scenes, I have been a very busy bee. It might have looked to the world like I was being very quiet (if anyone even noticed), but it was a year of deep work overhauling many of my basic paradigms about what it means to be an author and how to run my business in new ways that’ll better serve my readers and also be sustainable for me for the next leg of my writing journey. Some of my particular areas of focus included:

  • Learning to write faster
  • Taking a hard look at the content I produce and stripping off the blinders I didn’t realize I had on
  • Getting much more organized in the systems that I rely on to create a new novel from start to finish
  • Exploring new romance subgenres, thus opening up areas of fresh creativity
  • And the biggest and hardest step of all—what I call my Regency reboot—finding a fun, fresh approach to my most familiar subgenre.

. . . .

Within four months, I was nearly done (80,000 words clean and ready to go) of what was to have been a 90,000 or so full-length Regency when…the entire book fell apart on me.

This had never happened to me before. (I can sense my fellow authors’ collective shudder of dread reading this right now. Apparently, most everybody goes thru this sooner or later. A career rite-of-passage, I guess, like getting that first “hated it” review.)

I had sent the manuscript to my wonderful agent to get going on negotiations for a new contract, and she pointed out a few “small flaws” with the story set-up and the characters. They seemed at first like no big deal to fix, but when I dug in to try to straighten things out, I realized these were not little tweaks but huge structural defects. Basically, my book died on me.

To say I was freaked out would be the understatement of the year. I could not fathom how someone who had been hitting bestseller lists consistently for a decade could make such idiotic mistakes and not even see it until the whole project was nearly done.

. . . .

I told my publisher I’d be in touch with them when I was ready to try again, but I realized that could be a while, at least on a Regency, because by that time, I was on the verge of panic attacks over my writing and wondering if I was just a total loser who did not know how to write her way out of a paper bag.

. . . .

Between this experience and the extremely disturbing 50 Shades craze, which kinda goes against everything I stand for, at this point I admit I did briefly consider walking away from romance altogether in favor of the kidlit, which is doing very well.

. . . .

Rather than go thru the long, drawn-out process of submitting the “new thing” to New York and sitting on my hands for 2 years waiting for it to come out and leaving all of you hanging, I just decided to release it under my own independent label, the same way I do the middle grade novels.

The publishing process is relatively easy and fun, and hassle-free. Because of the E.G. Foley releases, we’ve already developed a network of excellent freelancers for things like editing and cover design.

Having 16 years of professional experience in the business and being already groomed to perform at an international level is also a big help. There are things I can do as a small business owner that the New York behemoths cannot do based on their multinational corporate model. For example, I’m happy to say the e-book will be very affordable and readers in the UK, Australia, and Europe won’t have to wait. Everyone will get the book at the same time.

. . . .

For this one–if you want the paperback–you’ll simply have to order it online and get it delivered to you.

This does not only mean Amazon, by the way. It will also be carried on the Barnes and Noble website and through any indie bookstore that has its print book offering online for customers to order and chooses to carry it. It’ll just be unlikely that you’ll find my new books sitting in the front of bookstores as before.

I apologize to any inconvenience to you on that, dear reader, but from the author’s point of view, frankly, I’m fine with it. Been there, done that, have the T-shirt. There are tons of ways the bookstore model can go wrong, anyway. Like last year, when Secrets of a Scoundrel came out, here at my local big chain superstore, where I’m a local author and have actually done events at that store, they fricking LOST my book during the critical 2nd week of my new release.

The manager could not find it anywhere in the store or in the backroom or any place, even though the computer said they should’ve had multiple copies on the front tower–where my publisher had paid thru the nose to have it prominently displayed.

. . . .

If you want something done right, do it yourself…

Link to the rest at Gaelen Foley and thanks to Eric for the tip.

Here’s a link to Gaelen Foley’s books


Publishing’s Kickstarter Moment

21 June 2015

From TechCrunch:

I’ve gone all in in with the Indie publishing movement – I’ve released three books myself and I’ve done relatively well with all of them. But the fact still remains that the entire business of books is stacked against the Indie author. While the tools are far simpler than they have ever been, the perception that an Indie book is an inferior product, at least in the eyes of established media, is strong. But that’s about to change.

First, some ranting: getting an Indie book reviewed is almost impossible. It took a publisher’s backing to make the The Martian a hit and Hugh Howey had to create his own publisher, Broad Reach to get official attention on the NYT bestseller rankings. In fact, the New York Times Book Review, arguably the only book review that matters these days, doesn’t publish “self-published” works with any frequency (although you can sometimes fake your way in with careful planning). In general, the cards are stacked against the serious Indie publisher when it comes to reach and reviews.

Why is this the case? Because of something that was once an ironclad rule in tech journalism and has been recently shattered: indie products never get coverage because they are mostly created by crackpots. I started writing about gadgets in 2000 and at that time your only sources were PR people inside the big companies – Sony, Nokia, Samsung, LG, JVC, Hitachi, HTC etc. I think you’ll notice something very interesting about that list. Ten years ago most tech blogs covered those companies religiously and were fighting tooth and nail to post Sony’s latest fart. In fact, the whole thing ended ended up being an endless, awful clusterfudge in which access to press releases a privilege and not a right. It sucked. And hardware startups? They were either robotics companies dedicated to sending robots into coal mines or crazy guys like the man we met at CES trying to market a walking stick shaped like a woman’s leg with a pepper spray gun embedded in the handle.

Then, in about 2008, Kickstarter and Indiegogo came along. The latest flat-screen TV from JVC was immensely boring when compared to products like the Ouya, the Pebble, or the Oculus. All of the real innovation was happening in the Indie space. Young, talented hardware designers didn’t have to go to Samsung to work on the SD card hatch on a flip phone. Instead they could build something from scratch and build a real business.

. . . .

[I]t has become amazingly easy to pre-sell and fund a publishing venture through crowdfunding and the breakout successes in that space are now being funded far beyond what traditional publisher royalties would offer. Heck, a picture book about a cat raised over $5,000 which would net the writer about $2,000 after printing and shipping.

Yet beyond a certain insular group of writers and readers, self-published books aren’t getting the attention they need or deserve. While there are tricks to getting readers – many writers are now releasing individual short stories or even chapters in an effort to game Amazon – the mainstream book marketing systems are afraid to even dip a toe in the once-fetid swamps of Indie books.

But those waters have cleared and it’s now easy to see what’s worth attention. Once a popular Kickstarted product was the exception and treated as such. Now crowdfunded products are the norm. Once a popular self-published writer was an oddity. Now they are the commonplace. Whereas the “vanity press” author was a crackpot ranting about lizard men at the center of the world, now the Indie author is a guy who worked with Henry Millers’ old editor, Barney Rosset, a philospher who is translating Descartes into bro, and scholars offering commentary on the classics. The lizard-ranters are still there but they are harder to find.

Link to the rest at TechCrunch and thanks to Meryl for the tip.

PG knows one small tech hardware company that uses Kickstarter as a market testing tool for new products.

For each potential new product, the company runs a Kickstarter campaign. If the campaign is successful, they move forward with the product, having at least partially funded their development costs and having a number of products pre-sold. If the Kickstarter campaign doesn’t work, the company dumps the product.

Relaunched Self-Publishing Platform Pronoun Raises $3.5M

18 June 2015

From TechCrunch:

Pronoun, a self-publishing platform that says it places authors’ needs first, announced today that it has raised $3.5 million in new funding.

The company is actually a new incarnation of book creation and distribution company Vook, combining Vook’s capabilities with data company Booklr and digital publisher Byliner (both acquired by Vook last year).

. . . .

So how is Pronoun going to do things differently? Well, the company boils its approach down to a few key things that authors deserve — support (particularly after the book has been released), transparency, control over things like pricing, and the ability to profit from advances in technology, particularly the increased speed and lower cost.

Can Pronoun live up to this rhetoric while growing as a venture-backed, for-profit company? CEO Josh Brody argued that the answer is yes:

The problem with the existing value chain is that it isolates earning potential to a certain set of players — large corporate publishers, agents, etc. We think that as technology continues to change the publishing landscape, new ways to make money will continue to develop, and we are aligning ourselves with authors (i.e., the people who actually create what is sold) for two reasons: We love books, and empowering authors is the fairest way to support the evolution of the written word. It’s also the smartest way to identify business opportunities as they emerge.

Link to the rest at TechCrunch and thanks to Laura for the tip.

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