100% Diy: Interview with Cellist Zoë Keating

20 January 2019

From Indie Digital Media:

Zoë Keating is a cellist and composer whose music has appeared in tv shows like Breaking Bad and the Sherlock Holmes drama Elementary. She’s released several albums and EPs of her original music, and has recorded with artists such as Amanda Palmer.

All of this Keating does with a “100% DIY” approach, as she wrote in an LA Times op-ed in 2013. She owns the rights to her music and controls the distribution, by putting it up herself on iTunes and other platforms like Bandcamp.

Even better, this DIY approach has been successful. In the following interview with her, you’ll see a detailed breakdown of how much money she made from her music in 2018. In summary, she earned $20,828 from streaming and $42,229 from digital downloads and physical albums. That’s not counting revenue from concerts, licensing fees from tv and movie soundtracks, and other income.

. . . .

In her end-of-year Tumblr post, Keating outlined her streaming royalties for 2018. She had earned $12,231 from Spotify, from 2,252,293 streams. That equates to about half a cent per stream. She estimated $3,900 from Apple Music and $2,800 from Pandora, and from everything else it was two or three figure sums (including $71 from Napster, the once popular file sharing service that didn’t pay artists a penny in its prime). All up, she earned a bit over $20,000 from all streaming sources in 2018.

I asked Keating how her revenue from digital downloads and physical media (CDs and LPs) compared with the streaming royalties?

“In 2018 there were 5,024 downloads and 4,093 physical albums sold on Bandcamp,” she replied, “which after packaging, shipping, and tax netted me $28,729.”

She made a further $13,500 from 6,610 iTunes downloads (albums and songs combined) in 2018, down 11% from the previous year. This, said Keating, parallels the industry decline in digital downloads.

“iTunes download revenue has been gradually going down for me over the years,” she said.

Streaming services are of course to blame, since they’re making the act of downloading less and less common.

. . . .

This trend is also reflected in Bandcamp, the leading platform for indie musicians to sell their music online.

“Bandcamp sales are not as large as you’d think,” Keating told me. “Bandcamp does not market or advertise or receive any kind of press, unlike the major music services. When I mention Bandcamp, many listeners say ‘oh what is that?’ So my sales are from the listeners who take the trouble to visit my website, are comfortable with the concept [of buying from her site] and purchase the music directly. But people tend to use their service of choice and only a fraction buy from me directly.”

. . . .

In a recent Facebook post, Keating wrote that “the hardest problem I have as an artist these days is reaching the people who already love my music.” Considering she has 52,000 Facebook followers and 989,000 Twitter followers, this shows how hard it is for even popular indie creators to get attention on social media platforms.

Link to the rest at Indie Digital Media

Wall Street Journal Comments

17 January 2019

Last night, PG posted about an interesting article in the Wall Street Journal about Amazon and the publishing business. Click Here if you haven’t seen it.

He just checked the comments to the WSJ article, expecting to see great galloping herds of rampant ADS.

PG was pleasantly surprised to see the large majority of the comments were supportive of Amazon and several talked about their good experiencing self-publishing. If you’ve already read the original WSJ article, here’s a direct link to the Comments that worked for PG, but may not work for others.

PG isn’t certain how the WSJ paywall might affect others.

UPDATE: Mike shared a paywall workaround in the comments: “Doing a Google search on the post title gave me a link to both the full article and the comments.”

The title of the OP is:‘They Own the System’: Amazon Rewrites Book Industry by Marching Into Publishing

The Future of Music, Where Middlemen Have Met Their Match

4 January 2019

From OZY:

“Hey, Dad. I want to show you a song.”

The speaker was my 16-year-old daughter. Music for her? Primarily visual and to be enjoyed in video clips. Video clips that did not always feature videos. Sometimes it was just some clip art and the music. But no record store, no record album, no tape — reel-to-reel, eight track, cassette or otherwise — and finally no compact disc. And she’s not alone in how she’s digging on the music she digs on.

According to Nielsen’s music report, digital and physical album sales declined (again) last year — from about 205 million in 2016 to 169 million copies in 2017 — down 17 percent. Over the past five years, right up to Nielsen’s mid-year report, sales had fallen by roughly 75 percent. That decline is coinciding with a streaming juggernaut that continues to grow. How much so? Last year streaming skated, quite easily, beyond 400 billion streams. You include video streams and you have figures over $618 billion. You look back at the year before and you see a 58 percent increase in audio streams.

While this buoyed the damned-near-moribund music industry to the tune of 12.5 percent growth from 2016 to last year, the music business is now, as it has been, all about discovering the music that can generate all of those streams. And that’s where things get curious because record labels that are used to creating heat now have to go places where the heat is being created to stay viable and vibrant.

. . . .

With a number of presently high-profile artists — Odd Future, Lil Yachty, Post Malone, etc. — being “discovered” on places like SoundCloud over the past five years, entire communities of music fans can beat both the hype and the Spotify/Pandora/SiriusXM radio/Amazon algorithms that suggest if you liked this, you might also like that, by starting there, and branching out. First stop: Instagram.

“People come in all the time and play me stuff from their IG feeds,” says Mark Thompson, founder of Los Angeles-based Vacation Vinyl (that sells, yes, primarily vinyl). “So I’m hearing bands that it soon becomes pretty clear have no label, no representation, nothing but an IG feed and maybe some music recorded on their laptops.”

To put this in perspective, in July 2018, Instagram added the music mode in Stories, and just that quickly streaming started to feel … old. Because from the musicians’ mouths to our ears, unmediated music finds its way from the creator to the consumer. Spotify is trying to adapt too — it has over the past year begun to sign deals with independent musicians to give them access to the platform.

. . . .

“It’s free,” she says, having endured speeches about listening to unpaid/stolen music. Since she and her friends don’t ever listen to more than 60 seconds of any song, at least while I am around, this raises the question: Is it a business and is it sustainable in the same way that Apple Music, Tidal, Deezer or iHeartRadio have managed to be?

“Unknown,” says former promoter and music industry executive Mark Weiss. “But the business is where the ears are. And if the business is any damn good it’ll figure out how to stay in the conversation.”

. . . .

Flash-forward to record contracts from the mid-1990s that covered cassette tapes, vinyl, compact discs and “future technologies not yet known.” The digitization of analog music had already changed the landscape for everything from crime to interior design.

Whereas previously you’d have needed a turntable, an amplifier, maybe a preamp, a tape player, a receiver, speakers and a subwoofer to listen to the music that you’d be playing off of tapes, vinyl or CDs, after everything was digitized you just needed a phone and speakers.

Link to the rest at OZY

Local children’s book authors find new ways to reach readers

31 December 2018
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From the Worcester, Massachusetts Telegram:

With the development of new technologies and marketing methods, children’s book authors are finding new ways to publish quickly rather than wait years for a traditional agent or publisher. These days, with a plethora of juvenile books on store shelves already, competitive agents gravitate toward the sure thing. So what’s the newbie to do?

Four writers connected to this area shared their methods: Nick Zwirblia, author of “The Bramford Chronicles, Book 1: Johnny and Baby Jumbo;” Susan Lubner, author of “Lizzy and the Good Luck Girl;” Rebecca Boucher, author of “The Adventures of Mist;” and J. Anthony Garreffi, author of “I Caught Santa.” Each uses publishing methods unique to their talents: partnerships, informed self-publishing, e-books or traditional representation.

Susan Lubner

Susan Lubner lives in Southboro and was raised in Maine, the setting for her middle-grade book (MG, aimed at readers 8 to 12), published Nov. 6. Her heroine, Lizzy, is 12. Lizzy searches for good luck symbols everywhere. They lead her to hide a runaway girl at home, probably not the best decision to make solo. But life is complicated.

Lubner has traditional representation: a literary agent and a publisher. This setup opens the door to professional marketing assistance, editing and guaranteed publishing quality for the book.

The author of three previous books for children and another novel, “The Upside of Ordinary,” she is published by Running Press Kids, an imprint of Perseus Books/Hachette Book Group. Its MG designation removes the book from the more mature topics found in teen books (YA: young adult). That’s not to say MG doesn’t get real.

“Kids that age do face difficulties — death, divorce, sometimes alcohol abuse,” she said. “The issues are serious, but the book is very different from YA, in terms of language and social issues. Every child wants to feel safe and protected. When your foundation is turned upside down by death or divorce, you look for a safe haven.”

She has had more than one agent, having changed agents when one didn’t produce results. She also submitted to publishers independently, selling her first four books without agent representation. Now she has linked up with Linda Epstein, her agent for the past several years. “I adore her,” Lubner said. “It’s hard to get an agent, you have to be persistent, go to conferences, write a good query letter. You meet agents at conferences. I met Linda because one of my critique (group) buddies had seen in her blog that she was looking for funny picture books, and I had one. She thought it was hilarious and asked to see more of my writing.”

This route may not be easiest. “It’s a very difficult business to break into — be persistent, hone your skills,” Lubner said. “Just never give up. I’ve been very lucky. There are so many writers who deserve an agent but don’t have one, and it may just be a matter of timing, or the market when they submit. Just polish a novel, get it in the best shape possible and network.”

Lubner also works hard to promote her books, although publishers are very helpful. “I do what I can to help it sell,” she said. “There are a lot of great books out there, and you only have a certain amount of shelf time.” There is so much competition for shelf space that books can disappear within months. She finds independents such as Tatnuck Bookseller in Westboro very willing to shelve her books and counts on libraries for a chance to meet with readers. She’s making the rounds and mentioned upcoming events at Southboro Public Library’s Middle Group readers book club. She’s also working on a group tour with other authors. Innovative marketing is key.

One thing she asks of readers: “Leave reviews on Good Reads or Amazon. They’re so, so important and helpful.”

. . . .

Edward “Nick” Zwirblia

Edward “Nick” Zwirblia’s long-held dream of telling a story about Depression-era Vermonters has been realized through self-publishing on Amazon. His first book of a planned series, “The Bramford Chronicles: Johnny & Baby Jumbo,” is about Johnny Edes, 9, who rescues an elephant from a train wreck and hides him in the family barn. The chronicles are a planned four-part series to recreate times now fading from memory.

Zwirblia, 56, raised in poverty in Worcester and living in Vermont, has written in a unique voice because he learns by ear. His dialogue reflects the rural speaking habits he learned from locals, and the learning habits he adopted from a lifelong battle with dyslexia. Altogether, it gives the characters a lively presence and adds rapid motion to the story. Sentences are short, direct.

The book highlights the difficulties of people living in a rural, Depression-era Vermont town.

“I also wanted to write about discrimination and racism. These three boys became best friends, and the African-American boy teaches two poor local boys whose fathers are farmers and bootleggers about what life is really like for him in the 1930s,” he said.

He captures the times with camera-like precision, and the book reflects the flow of a kid’s thoughts, much of it stream of consciousness. It’s set in rural Bramford, Vermont, a small, fictional town near White River Junction.

Dyslexia gave Zwirblia limits (“I never read a book in school”). He relied on narrative voices from the past, especially an 86-year-old Vermont friend, Claude Thurston, whom he credits with much of the dialect assistance. “I gave the first copy to Claude.”

Like many a novice, Zwirblia connected with people willing to take his money without helping him out much. He battled early editors to retain language he knew was right for the place and times.

“I figure I spent about $26,000 trying to write this book for publication,” he says. That’s far more than most self-published authors will spend. The money went for typing, photo art, editing and publication details, and the cost of books donated to libraries and others. “There are a lot of marketing scams out there,” he warned. “I listened and believed everything they said.”

It wasn’t until he met Donald Unger in Worcester that he found an editor who understood his book and stuck by his side in getting it ready to publish. He credits Unger for helping him arrange and prioritize his story’s facts. “I couldn’t have done it without him. I have to write from A to Z because of my dyslexia. I can’t start in the middle.”

“Having an editor is a key step, as most beginners don’t know what to do to successfully complete a book and make it publishable,” he said. The book is available as a Kindle e-book and in softcover. Now he’s ready to complete part two, “Lost, One Elephant.” He plans for his series to advance into World War II.

Nostalgia factors into the series. His dyslexia has influenced his scrappy writing, a communicative style that may appeal to readers as young as 10 as much as his intended audience, adults. “Donald (Unger) feels it will appeal to a younger audience as well, but I have tried to reach out to people in their 40s and above. There’s no vulgarity, no horror or blood and guts. They can read it to their grandchildren. For some of them, it brings back childhood.”

Link to the rest at the Telegram

Six Myths  (and a Few Facts) About Traditional Publishing

2 December 2018

From BookBaby Blog:

Despite the constant upheaval that defines the current publishing landscape, many authors (and would-be authors) labor under some old “assumptions” about traditional publishing that are simply no longer relevant.

Myth #1: Traditional publishers serve as “gatekeepers”

As the argument goes… with a bloated book marketplace being invaded by millions of self-published titles, readers can depend on publishers to maintain quality literary standards as they allow only the best stories to be told through well-written tomes. This is false for many reasons.

First, publishing is a cold business. There is no noble mission to protect readers from bad books. Publishers put out books they think will make money — for the publishing house, maybe the bookstore, and possibly the author.

It’s true that traditional publishers are full of book professionals, some of whom are pretty good at spotting talent. The best placement editors also have an instinct for what the market will consume. They’ve published a lot of wonderful books. They’ve also published a lot of stinkers.

But if the gatekeeper myth were true, surely no good manuscript would ever be rejected, right?

. . . .

Myth #2: You can only make the big bucks through traditional publishing

The truth is, thanks to today’s self-publishing revolution, you have an equal chance at huge sales results no matter which route you choose: traditional or independent publishing. In fact, the vast majority of authors will tell you there isn’t a lot of money to be found in a traditional book deal. Sure, you get an advance check, which averages around $5,000-$10,000, but you have to earn that back before you see another dime.

Moreover, the royalties associated with publishing through one of the major houses are paltry. If you publish through a large publishing house, you can expect to make $1-$2 per book sold. To make matters worse, most publishers only pay authors twice a year, so you can’t expect to see your monthly income increase because of your book.

It got to the point that, in 2016, the US Authors Guild sent an open letter to the Association of American Publishers demanding better contract terms. In the letter, these writers stated, “Authors’ income is down across all categories. According to a 2015 Authors Guild survey —  our first since 2009  — the writing-related income of full-time book authors dropped 30% over that time period, from $25,000 to $17,500.”

. . . .

Myth #5: Once you land a book deal, your author career is set for life

Loyalty to authors is, largely, a thing of the past. The duration of a traditionally published author’s career is controlled by his or her publisher, and it’s usually all about sales of the latest book. If your new book doesn’t perform well, the publisher will not want your next one.

In fact, your first book must perform exceptionally well before the next one will be considered for publication. And the odds are long: only one to two percent of all books published become bestsellers.

Link to the rest at BookBaby Blog

Draft2Digital, Baker & Taylor, and OverDrive

2 December 2018
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From Indies Unlimited:

Those of you who use Draft2Digital to distribute eBooks outside of Amazon should have recently received a message that Draft2Digital has now partnered with Baker & Taylor’s Axis 360 eBook distribution platform.

Baker & Taylor, a massive distributor of books, movies, DVDs, and other entertainment, has been in business for over 180 years.

. . . .

But wait, you may be thinking (or at least I was), Draft2Digital already uses OverDrive to reach libraries. Why do we also need Baker & Taylor?

The short answer is that they offer different services and are used by different libraries. The long answer is more complicated.

OverDrive, as you probably know, also distributes eBooks to schools and libraries. OverDrive was founded in 1986, originally to convert analog video and audio media to a digital format. In 2000, they extended their business online and began what would eventually become one of the first – and biggest – eBook distributors to retailers, libraries, and schools. OverDrive is compatible with just about any ereader on the market.

. . . .

When Baker & Taylor decided to branch out into the distribution of eBooks, they became … well, you could say frenemies … with OverDrive. In 2009, believing they were forming an exclusive partnership, OverDrive signed on to help Baker & Taylor develop their own eBook distribution services, one that was superior to the one OverDrive was currently using. They even gave Baker & Taylor access to their list of accounts, sales and marketing data, inventory, and servers. It didn’t end well.

Now they’re competitors when it comes to distributing eBooks to libraries. Some libraries use both systems; some only use one. Because OverDrive has been in the business of eBook distribution longer, they’re used by more libraries and have, according to some, better developed technology. Because Baker & Taylor has over 180 years of paperback and hardback book distribution behind them, they’re catching up quickly.

Link to the rest at Indies Unlimited

PG notes that libraries tend to purchase their books from sales organizations that tailor their services to meet the needs of libraries.

By opening their doors to indie authors via Draft2Digital, Baker & Taylor and Overdrive are making it possible for libraries to easily purchase books from local indie authors as well as the increasing number of nationally-known and read authors who self-publish.

Finishing the Formatting

13 November 2018

PG got a late start today because he was finishing the formatting for Mrs. PG’s next book.

He still really likes the Kindle Create tool, but was reminded that he needs to thoroughly check the MS before importing into Kindle Create.

If any Amazon Kindle Create people are visiting TPV, PG likes Find, but he would like Find and Replace even more.

Why I’m Taking a Break from Writing Books

10 November 2018

From Jeff Rivera:

I am a lifelong book lover. I was the type of kid who preferred being in the library rather than playing recess or football with his friends. I’d always wanted to be an author and was fortunate at the age of 28 to have the first novel I wrote, Forever My Lady, which I originally self-published, become traditionally published by Hachette.

I soon found that I could make a comfortable living self-publishing (or indie publishing as we call it) and through ups and downs and changes from Amazon’s KDP including Kindle Unlimited, I held fast, wrote and co-wrote over 100 books under different genres and to this date, make a pretty consistent living.

Then, everything changed.

The last year and a half, I’ve noticed that consumer attention has shifted. Not only in terms of the all-you-can-eat monthly subscription models of Kindle Unlimited and Scribd, but overall.

When I had an honest evaluation of where consumer attention is, (not where I want it to be), I saw that it is on social media, live events, music, gaming, streaming services and others. How do I know? Not only is that where my own consumer attention is, but it’s where even my most fanatic readers has gone.

Indie publishing sales have gone up as a whole, but not for each author.  Brand author names aside, sales are spread thin across multiple authors and pen names.  Traditional houses have combat this by raising prices even though their own sales have dwindled in most cases, which is the same solution movie houses have done with with their lowering sales. The problem has become that the more they raised the prices, the less people have bought.

I pay attention to what people do more than what they say and on a recent nearly two month long trip to New York City, I watched people on the subways. New York is a great way to observe nationwide and even worldwide consumer behavior because there are tourists from all over the world.

10 years ago, when I lived in New York I would see at least 25% of people reading books, magazines or eBooks, on this trip, I was lucky if I saw one person reading a magazine. Perhaps there were some listening to audio books, but 90% of the train were looking at or listening to their mobile devices.

. . . .

Over the last nearly two years I had accepted the fact that most of my income would come from Kindle Unlimited. It was a blessing for me and kept my bills paid when actual sales dwindled. I too, am a Kindle Unlimited consumer and when I looked at my own behavior, it matched most of my readers.

Recently though, even Kindle Unlimited readership has dropped dramatically. Even with monthly promotions, coupled with the fact that open rates on emails dropped, it was the perfect storm for lower readership.

Don’t get me wrong, there will always be the hardcore readers, those who prefer physical books over eBooks but they are fast-becoming the minority instead of the majority.  There hasn’t been that one big book that everyone is reading in a long time, but I’m sure in the future, there will be one.  Gone are the days of Twilight and Hunger Games and Harry Potter.  I still consistently buy books in bookstores, but how many do I actually finish, really? How many do you finish?

Then, there has been the emotional toll, indie author drama aside, the constant grind of working on stories that I’m not that into just to feed the beast that may or may not sell is exhausting.

So, what is my solution: Filmmaking.  Working only on stories I’m passionate about.  Filmmaking is something I’ve been passionate about since I was a teenager. Even before that, I’d always been a movie-lover. I started down the path of filmmaking in my early twenties, but then shifted gear to books. Now, at the age of 41, I’m back again and this time, I’m armed with the experience my previous careers including being an author taught me.

Link to the rest at Jeff Rivera and thanks to Dave for the tip.

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