Horror Authors Take a Stab at Self-Publishing

22 October 2016

From Publishers Weekly:

Every literary genre has its subgenres, but there is perhaps no genre so packed with niches as horror fiction. You’ve got your supernatural horror, postapocalyptic horror, fantasy horror, sci-fi horror, comedy horror, and then all the vampire, werewolf, and zombie horror. It’s a long list of genres for the long list of authors who self-publish in this increasingly fractured and versatile category.

Some horror writers are making a killing at self-publishing, but that’s far from the norm. More likely, self-published horror writers are seizing independence to get out work that isn’t finding a home with traditional presses—and many of them are passionate enough to keep going despite making little profit.

“[Horror] is a genre with rabid, but small, fan bases and obsessive authors; it’s a hard genre to sell,” says Martin Kee, who has self-published several horror works that also tie in elements of sci-fi and fantasy, including A Latent Dark, The Umbral Wake, and Bloom: Or, The Unwritten Memoir of Tennyson Middlebrook, all exclusively on Amazon. “Horror isn’t for everyone, and I think a lot of people who might enjoy horror steer clear because they think it’s just gore. Other people just don’t want to feel scared or anxious. They just don’t want that stuff in their head. I respect that, but there’s such a broad spectrum of horror out there, I think people would be surprised what they end up liking. I’ve even been told by readers of Bloom that they didn’t even know it was the book they wanted to read until they read it.”

. . . .

To be clear, no one is claiming that gore is dead, but rather that the playing field has opened tremendously, and that’s thanks in part to self-publishing. Many indie horror writers find that, had it not been for self-publishing, they’d never have been able to get their “hard to sell” ideas out into the world.

. . . .

“I lost track of how many agents I queried,” says St. Germain, who recently signed a book deal with the small publisher Black Rose Writing. “I thought I’d have more credibility and grow my audience if I found a publisher. But now that I look at things, and the more reading I do online, it feels like the lines are more blurred between self- and traditional publishing, though with self-publishing you keep most of the money.”

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

The latest marketplace data would seem to say publishers are as strong as ever

19 October 2016

From veteran publishing consultant Mike Shatzkin:

This post began being written a couple of weeks ago when I recalled some specific misplaced expectations I had for the self-publishing revolution and started to ponder why things happened the way they did in recent years. It turns out a big part of the answer I was looking for provides clarity that extends far beyond my original question.

For a period of a few years that probably ended two or three years ago, we saw individual authors regularly crashing bestseller lists with self-published works. Some, like Amanda Hocking, parlayed their bootstrap efforts into significant publishing contracts. Others, like Hugh Howey, focused on building their own little enterprise and tried to use the publishing establishment for what it could do that a self-publisher couldn’t. (In what was certainly a very rare arrangement of this kind with a major indie author, Howey made a print-only deal for his bestseller, “Wool”, with Simon & Schuster. And he made foreign territory and language deals and Hollywood deals as well.) And we know that there were, and are, a slew of indie authors who self-publish through Amazon and don’t even bother to buy ISBN numbers to get universal distribution under a single title identifier, effectively keeping them out of bookstores.

All of this was enabled by three big changes to the historical book publishing and distribution ecosystem. One was the rise of ebooks, which simplified the challenge of putting book content into distributable form and getting it into the hands of consumers. The second was the near-perfection of print on demand technology, which enabled even print books to be offered with neither a significant investment in inventory nor the need for a warehouse to store it. And the third was the increased concentration of sales at a single retailer, Amazon.Between print and digital editions, Amazon sells half or more of the units on many titles and, indeed, may be approaching half the retail sales overall for the US industry.

. . . .

What the rush of indie bestsellers told us a few years ago was that things had changed to the point that a single person with a computer could achieve sales numbers that would please a big corporation going after sales with the tools provided by tons of overhead: careful curation and development, sophisticated production capabilities, teams of marketers and publicists, legions of sales people, and acres of warehouse space. This had not been possible before ebooks. And the market reach of the amateur publisher was extended even further asAmazon’s share of print sales surged as a direct result of retail shelf space declining with Borders’s passing and Barnes & Noble’s shrinkage.

For a period of time that was relatively brief and which now has passed, agents and publishers worried that self-publishing could be appealing to authors they’d want in their ecosystem. The author’s share of the consumer dollar is much higher through self-publishing. And the idea of “control” is very appealing, even if the responsibility that goes with it is real and sometimes onerous.

. . . .

I’d suggest that the biggest reason this activity was so feverish 2-to-4 years ago and isn’t so much now was revealed first in a vitally important post by hybrid author and helper-of-indies Bob Mayer and then reiterated by the latest report from the Author Earnings website.

Mayer built an impressive business for himself by reissuing titles of his that had previously been successfully published and gone out of print. He spells out clearly what has changed since the days of big indie success and the plethora of entity-based publishing initiatives.

The marketplace has been flooded. An industry that used to produce one or two hundred thousand titles a year now produces over a million. Nothing ages out of availability anymore. Even without POD keeping books in print, ebooks and used books make sure that almost nothing ever disappears completely. And Mayer’s sales across a wide range of titles — his and other authors whom he has helped — reflect the mushrooming competition. They’re down sharply, as are the sales of just about everybody he knows.

What Mayer wrote tended to confirm that the breakthrough indie authors happened far more frequently before the market was flooded. Authors who struck it rich in 2010 and 2011 (like Hugh Howey) were lucky to get in before the glut. Recommending that somebody try to do the same thing in 2013 or 2014 was telling them to swim in a pool with water of a completely different temperature.

On the heels of Mayer’s piece, Author Earnings made discoveries that seemed to startle even them. For those who don’t know, AE is a data collection and analysis operation put together by indie author Hugh Howey teamed with the anonymous analyst “Data Guy”. The AE emphasis is on what the author gets, (“a site for authors by authors” is what they call themselves) with less interest in what publishers want to know: how topline ebook revenues are shifting.

According to the industry’s best analyst, Michael Cader, the most recent AE report shows, for the first time since they’ve been tracking it, a reduction in earnings for indie authors and an increase for published authors. (Cader may have a paywall; here’s another report from Publishing Perspectives.) But even more startling is the shift in revenue. Publishers have booked 65% of Kindle revenues and Amazon Publishing has 10%. They put self-published authors at 20%, which is down from 25% previously.

. . . .

What this is telling us is that, whatever deficiencies there are in the way publishers are organized for publishing today, they clearly are able to marshal their resources more effectively for book after book than indies can.

Link to the rest at The Shatzkin Files

PG says it’s interesting that Mike and others associated with Big Publishing debunked Author Earnings for its methodology (which, in PG’s distressingly humble opinion, they took way, way too long to understand) and its results.

Beginning in October 2014, as AE released report after report showing indie authors capturing a larger and larger share of the ebook market, the same criticisms continued.

Now, when the latest AE report shows an interruption in this trend, AE has suddenly become a reliable basis for saying this self-publishing thing is just a fad and Big Publishing will be fine after all.

While he doesn’t have any inside information or amazing predictive powers, PG says market data, particularly sales data, flucutuate.

While AE is a brilliant idea, it is a snapshot based on one day’s sales ranks on Amazon. A series of eight AE reports from October 2014 to May 2016 showed that indie authors were capturing a larger and larger portion of ebook sales. With each report after the first, a trend emerged and its reliability strengthened. The first AE snapshot was not a fluke, created by a single day’s fluctuation. Neither was the second, etc.

While PG was as surprised as anyone that the latest AE report showed a reversal of the previous trend, sales data fluctuate. We’ll have to see several more AE snapshots to understand what, if anything, is changing.

However, the economics and technology that underlie indie authors and their success with self-publishing haven’t changed.

  • Large numbers of people who become more and more accustomed to spending their days and nights reading emails, texts, news, etc., etc., etc. from their phones and tablets are unlikely to suddenly decide they really want to read a physical book.
  • The aggressive pricing of ebooks practiced by indie authors is not going to lose its power to attract new readers and retain existing ones.
  • We are not going to see a larger number of physical bookstores opening than are closing. A bookstore is a lousy financial proposition.
  • It’s not going to become easier for traditional authors to support expensive traditional publishers operating in high-cost cities.
  • As time goes by, readers will continue to discover that indie authors produce books that equal or exceed the quality of those created by legacy publishing. Once that discovery is made, it is not forgotten.

Problems of Self Publishing – Currency Exchange

14 October 2016

From author Edmond Barrett:

At the start of this year I had hoped would putting out by now my next book; due to various changes in personal circumstances that basically isn’t going to happen. The amount of time I got to commit to all thing writing related took a hit and I decided to concentrate what little I got on the writing part of writing as opposed to the business part of writing, however with the benefit of hindsight that might have been for the best. As followers of this blog are no doubt aware I live in Dublin, Ireland, which is part of the Eurozone. What you might be less aware of, is that over half my book sales to date have been through Amazon.UK, which is priced and pays me in sterling. At the moment that’s not such a good thing.


On the 23rd of June of this year Britain voted to leave the European Union, since then the Pound exchange rate against the Euro has done this:

. . . .

My first book – The Nameless War – is currently for sale on Amazon.UK for £2.90 for the ebook version, so the breakdown is as follows:

£2.90 selling price, 30% of which goes to Amazon, leaving £2.03. Multiply this by 1.42 (£ to € rate on 19th Nov 2015) equals €2.88.

Do the same calculation again at today’s rate and:

£2.90 selling price, 30% of which goes to Amazon, leaving £2.03. Multiply this by today’s rate of 1.11 equals €2.25.

This is a drop of €0.63 or nearly 22%.

Link to the rest at Edmond Barrett

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

Making a Living Writing

14 October 2016

From author Elizabeth Spann Craig:

I used to feel like the sole, income-focused writer in any group I was in.  I was  the one on any panel hesitantly bringing up ways that writers could make money with their writing.

I’ve noticed now that there are more writers like me out there and I’m more relaxed about being a commercial fiction writer.

I’ve been asked by parents, college students, and high school students about what degree is needed for becoming a writer.

But that’s one of the wonderful things about being a writer. You don’t have to have a degree in anything.  I was an English major, but that’s as far as I went with it.  When asked for my advice, I ask what type of writing they’re wanting to do and what their end-goal/their child’s end-goal is.  If the goal is “a career in writing,” then I’ll go as far as to suggest that they don’t go the MFA (Master in Fine Arts) route. They should instead read as much and as widely as they can and start writing.

. . . .

Writers at the start of their careers should ask themselves: am I writing to please myself or am I writing to appeal to a broader market? My kids are older and if I didn’t make a living at this, I’d be getting a day-job.  Writing  is my full-time job.  I’m not making a ton, but I’m making more than if I taught school and more than I’d make at any other job; I’ve been out of the traditional workforce since my first child was born in 1997.

. . . .

It’s better, in the current environment, to self-pub instead of trad-pub (most of the time).  I experienced first-hand  cutbacks that publishers are employing to save costs.  When I started out, 3-book deals were the norm at Penguin.  That unfortunately changed.  The merger between Penguin and Random House meant a layoff for my editor. Now there are many stories about how difficult it is getting to break into the industry and the market. It’s obviously still possible to do so…but at what cost?  I made and make a good deal more from my self-published books than my traditionally published books.

Write for the market–modified. I got lucky in this sense because cozy mysteries became popular with the public around the time that I became interested in writing them.  I love cozy mysteries and I love the books that I write.  What’s selling well in a genre that you enjoy reading?  I can’t recommend that you write in a genre you’re not very familiar with or that you wouldn’t enjoy writing. There are standards/norms/tropes in genres that readers expect and are looking for.  They provide a blueprint for your book and for a better chance at success.  Writers should read as much as possible in their chosen genre and absorb as much as they can to learn about pacing, character development, action, dialogue,  and story arc.

Link to the rest at Elizabeth Spann Craig and thanks to Deb for the tip.

Here’s a link to Elizabeth Spann Craig’s books. If you like an author’s post, you can show your appreciation by checking out their books.

The Case for ISBNs

10 October 2016

From Digital Book World The Digital Reader:

Just about everyone agrees that indie authors generally don’t use ISBNs on their ebooks. I’ve been pointing that out for almost four years, and it’s not hard to find a dozen posts why authors shouldn’t bother with ISBNs.

But have you ever considered the case_for_ ISBNs?

An ISBN is effectively a serial number for a book. A print book must have an ISBN or it can’t be sold in most bookstores (nor even on the bookstore’s website), but Amazon and the other major ebook retailers don’t require that an ebook have an ISBN, and so some indie authors think an ISBN has no value.

. . . .

Author Karen Myers presented a business case in favor of ISBNs a few weeks back in the comment section at The Passive Voice. She bought a thousand ISBNs from Bowker for $1,000, and has so far used 80 of them.

Myers has argued that one should buy an ISBN as a way of future-proofing, but also that there is a business case to justify the expense.

Here’s what Myers wrote about future-proofing in 2014. It’s all about controlling one’s identity because otherwise Amazon, Kobo, et al will control you:

Consider the following situation:

  • I publish a book, digital only. I don’t bother with an ISBN number.
  • I distribute it on Amazon, which assigns it an ASIN number, an Amazon product code.
  • I distribute it on Barnes & Noble, which assigns it an EAN number, a B&N product code.
  • I distribute it on Kobo, which assigns it an ISBN number owned by Kobo, so my book will appear to be published by Kobo, not me.
  • I distribute it on Smashwords, which assigns it an ISBN number owned by Smashwords, so my book will appear to be published by Smashwords, not me.

With the exception of Smashwords, none of these identifiers appear within the eBook itself.

And now, let twenty years go by… Barnes & Noble and Smashwords are out of business. Amazon changes its product code conventions and no longer uses ASIN numbers. There is no searchable database made available by Amazon for the old ASIN numbers. Kobo, which owns the ISBN it provided, controls what the Bowker Books In Print or successor database contains and updates the information about your book in ways you would not approve of, and since you have no ISBN number of your own that’s the only record of your book in Books In Print. Someone who chanced across a reference to your book based on an old copy from Barnes & Noble can’t find it because the B&N identifier is no longer alive, and may or may not connect it with a Kobo record in Books In Print which has a completely different identifier.

That is a cogent argument, and so is Myers’ point on the cost-benefit of buying ISBNs.

Link to the rest at Digital Book World The Digital Reader

PG apologizes to Nate and The Digital Reader for the error.

Are Self-Published Books Inferior to Professionally Published Books?

9 October 2016

From Slate:

Are Self-Published Books Inferior to Professionally Published Books?

This question originally appeared on Quora, the knowledge-sharing network where compelling questions are answered by people with unique insights.

. . . .

Answer by Archie D’Cruz, editor, designer, writer:

To give some context:

One of my clients is a “big five” publisher, based in New York. I also have a few other clients in publishing, ranging in size from fairly large to very small. I also know at least 20 authors who have self-published.

So overall, how do the books compare? For the most part, self-published books do not even come close to what a major publisher puts out.

This is not a knock on the authors themselves. Some of the writers I know who have self-published are good—brilliant even. Yet the books suffer in comparison to what a major publishing house will release. Why? Here are a few reasons:

Editing. It constantly surprises me that so many self-published authors see no need to trust their manuscripts to an editor (or, for that matter, a proofreader). Or they may just not wish to spend the money on what they may feel is an unnecessary expense.

Having seen raw manuscripts from published authors, I can tell you that they aren’tnecessarily a class above. Their work can sometimes do with a bit of polish as well. They make errors, too. What they benefit from is having multiple sets of eyes review and make edits—often many rounds of edits. Copy is also checked for spelling consistency and reviewed using a style guide (typically the Chicago Manual of Style).

The result, most often, is a superior product.

. . . .

Cover design. I suspect it would shock a lot of people to know exactly how much time a major publisher spends on cover design. This is such a critical aspect of book publishing, simply because it is the first thing a reader notices. The larger publishers I work for sometimes go through as many as a dozen different versions of a cover during the rough layout phase, and then continue to work with three or four options. There are photo shoots if necessary. Yes, cover designs can (and often do) take months.

Of course, there are many times that a major publisher will also use stock photo images from, say, Getty Images or iStock, but even these are combined and manipulated in so many ways that they are unrecognizable from the original by the time the book goes to print.

Many self-published authors, though, go the Fiverr route, or purchase an inexpensive stock image, only to discover the quality is not that great or that the same image has been used countless times before, so there’s nothing unique about it.

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

The Hybrid Author: Everything You Need to Know

9 October 2016

From Digital Book World:

A hybrid author is an author who has titles published both independently and through a contract with a publishing house.

There are pros and cons to each path, and hybrid authors get to experience the perks of both. As we consider the story of hybrid authors, let’s take a look at the elements of traditional publishing and self-publishing side by side.


Becoming an author by any path is never easy. There is no “right” way to be an author; both paths are valid ways to make a living. Pursuing hybrid authorship means pursuing two parallel paths at the same time, which is why many authors pursue one path first and the other later.

The paths of hybrid authors go in both directions. There are many authors who began their writing careers under contracts with publishing houses and then branched into independent publishing. Then there are those who began their authorship career as independent authors who gained enough of a following that they were approached and signed by a publishing house (Hugh Howey is one of the most well-known examples of the latter.)

. . . .

The publishing industry has changed dramatically in the past 10 years. The introduction of ebooks was a huge change in itself: a book was no longer always a paper object, reliant upon printing presses and mass production. It became something one could carry in one’s pocket on one’s phone.

The rise of the digital format lead to the self-publishing movement. When it was possible for a book to be an object that existed solely online, with no necessary printing costs and physical placement in bookstores, many people who had always dreamed of publishing a book did just that, by themselves, using the new technology available. As the self-publishing movement began to pick up steam, a whole industry grew around it: freelance editors and designers, assistants versed in the book world, promotional sites that assist with marketing. With a little research and some up-front investment, publishing one’s own book became a fast, effective way to share one’s stories with the world.

Amazon was the company that capitalized on the self-publishing movement the most, not only allowing independent authors to sell their titles on their site, but also creating programs to help independent authors market their titles while offering authors a royalty rate well above any that a publishing house would offer.

At this point, Amazon is a keystone of both the independent and traditional publishing businesses. Its Kindle as the most popular e-readers, and the company has maintained its status as the largest ebook retailer for years.

Link to the rest at Digital Book World

Amazon is Beta-Testing a Combined Kindle and POD Dashboard

8 October 2016

From The Digital Reader:

For the longest time Amazon has offered two distribution platforms for books. Publishers could use KDP to sell ebooks in the Kindle Store, and they could use Createspace (and before that, Booksurge) to distribute POD books.

Now Amazon is testing a combined interface where publishers can manage both their ebooks in the Kindle Store and their POD books in Createspace.

. . . .

Details are still scarce, but what we know now is that users can generate sales reports in KDP which cover both their print and digital books.

. . . .

We know from the KDP Support Forum discussion that the new feature is less about tying a publisher’s existing POD and Kindle books into one interface than about getting KDP users to create print editions of their existing titles.

. . . .

Amazon has long offered a POD service through Createspace, and in fact they will also distribute your Kindle ebook from a Createspace account. But as we know there are many authors who have only produced ebooks and have previously passed on print due to the hassle, low sales,  and the fact that key genres (romance, thriller/mystery, and SF) have largely gone digital.

Link to the rest at The Digital Reader

What Does It Mean to Be an ‘Indie’?

8 October 2016

From Writer Unboxed:

Myth: Independent publishing is a last resort for writers who have been rejected by traditional publishing.

Fact: Many indie authors intentionally skip the “traditional” route altogether. They do so for a variety of reasons, some of which include:

  • Autonomy. Indie authors love having the freedom to write what they want, when they want.
  • Creative control. They want to have the final say in how their stories are told, what the book cover looks like, how it’s priced, when its released, how it’s promoted—and every other aspect of their book’s journey into the world.
  • Speed to market. Indie authors value the ability to bring their books to market in a matter of days or weeks, rather than months or years. This agility not only enables them to reach readers faster and begin generating income sooner, it allows them to capitalize on time-sensitive opportunities, such as books about hot topic issues.
  • Ownership. Indies see the rights to their work as valuable assets that they can turn into products–such as ebooks, audiobooks, foreign language books, and more–in order to sell into different channels and markets and ultimately reach more readers.
  • Smarter compensation. While most indies write for the love of it, they also want to be compensated fairly. They appreciate the favorable royalty splits, easy-to-understand royalty statements, and timely payments offered by independent publishing platforms. And since they never have to worry about their books going out of print, they enjoy the ongoing source of passive income that supports their ultimate mission: to write more books.

Most indie authors know that readers don’t shop by publisher but rather by topic, genre, or author name, so they choose to focus their time and energy on producing great books that readers will love rather than chasing a book deal.

. . . .

Myth: Being an independent author is a lonely, disempowering existence.

Fact: Being an indie author means being part of an inclusive, empowering community of writers who are constantly trying new things and sharing what they learn. Forging your own path can give your writing a sense of adventure because you never know where your journey is going to lead or what opportunity is going to pop up next.

Link to the rest at Writer Unboxed and thanks to James for the tip.

Indie Author Survey

6 October 2016

Author Marie Force has announced an online survey of indie authors.

A survey has been designed and distributed to thousands of indie authors by Marie Force—who is both indie and traditionally published—that looks to capture the current state of indie publishing.

. . . .

The survey was distributed to multiple indie author groups with thousands of members who were encouraged to share it. The survey was also shared through social media. It seeks answers to a wide range of questions, including indie author income, number and length of books published, formats (ebook, print, audio or foreign), best marketing tools, retailers that result in highest sales, and the authors’ goals with regard to indie publishing. The survey closes on November 4th. Results will be tabulated and widely shared shortly after the survey closes.

“We hear a lot estimates about how lucrative indie publishing is, and conversely, how poorly some authors are faring,” Force said. “I wanted to hear from indie authors themselves about how they’re really doing. I think it’s also important information for authors at all stages of their careers so they have the facts about the realities to better inform their decision-making when considering how to publish. I’m really excited that we’ve had 750 authors take the survey in the first two days it was available.”

Here’s a link to the Indie Author Survey

Here’s a link to Marie Force’s books. If you like an author’s thoughts, you can show your appreciation by checking out their books.

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