On the Road

25 September 2016

PG is traveling back from the NINC conference today, so posts will be a bit sporadic.

While PG has attended countless legal and tech conferences, this is his first major conference for authors.

He thinks it was an excellent conference – informative and well-organized (despite the fact that they asked him to speak).

PG was impressed by the sophistication with which many of the authors who attended are using social media, advertising and the various well-known and newly-developed publishing platforms. He’ll be drawing on these insights as he comments on the rapidly-changing art and craft of successful indie publishing.

BookTango is closing their self-publishing business

24 September 2016

From GoodEreader:

Book Tango is a self-publishing company that has been around since 2012. The company simply cannot compete anymore against the Kindle Direct Publishing juggernaut and more direct competition from Book Baby, LULU or Smashwords. Book Tango will be shuttering their doors on September 30th and will no longer be accepting submissions.

When Book Tango first launched in 2012 the company was owned by Author Solutions. This meant that most of the self-publishing options had a myriad of different price points. Authors could pay for editing, cover art design, trademarks, social media consulting, book trailers or even paid reviews from companies like Kirkus.

Link to the rest at GoodEreader

The Indie E-Books Evolution

24 September 2016

From Publishers Weekly:

Indie authors are finding that now is a good time to dive into e-books. As readers continue to embrace the format, e-book platforms expand their offerings, and indie authors get savvier with the technology, authors and publishers are seeing more opportunities—but also a fair number of challenges—in the self-published e-book market.

At the beginning of September, Pew Research Center reported that 28% of U.S. adults had read an e-book in the past year—a five-point increase from four years ago. Additionally, earlier this year Technavio predicted that the e-book market in the U.S. would grow by almost 14% between now and 2020—surpassing $13 billion.

BookWorks founder and CEO Betty Kelly Sargent says members of her self-publishing association are embracing the format in ever-greater numbers. “E-book technology is the magic bullet for indie authors,” she says. She adds that members use the format to “make their books accessible to a worldwide audience [and] give their out-of-print books a new life by making them available again as e-books when the original rights have reverted to the author.”

Link to the rest at Publishers Weekly

How The London Book Fair Helps Vanity Presses Exploit Newbie Authors

22 September 2016

From David Gaughran:

The most prestigious event in the UK publishing calendar, the London Book Fair, welcomes predatory operators with open arms, deliberately positions them opposite author events for extra cash, and then helps to whitewash their reputation – even running misleading interviews and puff pieces on its own website to help them get more leads.

I’ve been campaigning against vanity presses and author exploitation for five years now, and one thing that became apparent is the key role of book fairs and industry events in this mess.

Vanity presses are always keen to appear at these events because it:

  • lends their seamy enterprise an air of legitimacy to inexperienced authors who don’t know better;
  • gives them direct access to a pool of newbie authors attending the events; and,
  • creates an opportunity to sell various products to their users such as book signing services and book display packages costing thousands of dollars.

. . . .

I called the London Book Fair this morning posing as a potential exhibitor called Arthur Kerr (sorry, couldn’t help it). Actually, the person I dealt with so nice and helpful that I felt terrible for the subterfuge, but I needed to establish some key points:

  1. It costs more to exhibit near the Author HQ, especially directly opposite same.
  2. Part of the deal (costing several thousand pounds) is a marketing package which includes “lead generation” – marketing speak for “we will deliver even more authors into your clutches.”
  3. No vetting whatsoever is done of exhibitors – even those who explicitly state they are engaged in author services and wish to take a stand directly opposite Author HQ. There were more questions about how many chairs I would like than what my “company” actually did (a big fat zero on the latter).

You might have guessed all of this already, but it was good to get it confirmed: the London Book Fair has absolutely no problem with exploitative author services being positioned where most writers will congregate.

Link to the rest at Let’s Be Digital

Here’s a link to David Gaughran’s books. If you like what an author has written, you can show your appreciation by checking out their books.

Amazon has cornered the future of book publishing

15 September 2016

From Quartz:

As traditional publishers struggle with sales, Amazon is quietly cornering a powerful new trend in books.

A recent report (pdf) from Bowker, the US company that issues International Standard Book Numbers (ISBN), shows that self-publishing is growing rapidly. Between 2010 and 2015, the number of ISBNs from self-published books grew by 375%. From 2014 and 2015 alone, the number grew by 21%. And perfectly positioned to take advantage of the growth is Amazon, whose DIY print business CreateSpace has become far and away the biggest self-publishing platform in the United States.

. . . .

Amazon’s dominance in self-publishing is probably even greater than Bowker shows. The e-commerce giant’s Kindle Direct Publishing platform lets authors publish ebooks without ISBNs, which means a big chunk of data is not captured by the report.

 Self-publishing is getting bigger and bigger. By some accounts, self-published authors are overtaking the big five publishing houses, at least when it comes to ebooks.

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

How Kickstarter became one of the biggest powers in publishing

15 September 2016

From The Guardian:

The crowdfunding site is now launching more books than all but the very largest publishers.

. . . .

Four months after launching on Kickstarter, a children’s book that tells the stories of 100 inspiring women has raised more than $1m (£754,000), making it the biggest publishing project in the crowdfunding site’s history. Almost 20,000 backers from 71 countries around the world have signed up to order Rebel Girls, which introduces young readers to role models from the Brontë sisters to Serena Williams.

The sums involved in the majority of Kickstarter’s publishing projects coming this autumn may be a little smaller, but the breadth and scope of the books is impressive: everything from a comic novel of smalltown Canada from a Québec humour columnist and broadcaster, to an account of looking after a rescued Staffordshire bull terrier, charting the dog’s journey from troubled crackpot to treasured companion, to a graphic novel about a Victorian girl who is the only one in her village to notice a series of sinister goings-on.

Of course, Kickstarter doesn’t get involved in the messy business of producing books – it’s a platform that puts people who want to produce books in touch with others all over the world who want to support their projects. But if you put the 1,973 publishing pitches that were successfully funded in 2015 together with the 994 successful comic and graphic novel projects, then last year’s tally of 2,967 literary projects puts the crowdfunding site up among publishing’s “Big Four”: Penguin Random House, Harper Collins, Hachette and Simon and Schuster. The latter, which is the smallest of the Big Four according to Publishers Weekly, publishes “over 2,000 titles annually”.

Kickstarter’s publishing “lead”, Margot Atwell, wants to make it clear that the site “definitely doesn’t supplant the role of editor, publicist or publisher” and is really “just one more tool an author or publisher can use to connect with readers and spread the word about their book”. But writers all over the world are choosing this new route to publication in unprecedented numbers. The books and comics section has grown steadily since the site’s launch in 2009, and accounts for around 13% of successful projects. In 2015, pledges totalled $35.2m and already in 2016 more than $20m has been pledged for more than 1,500 projects.

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

Poet Rupi Kaur’s Milk and Honey sells more than half a million copies

14 September 2016

From The Guardian:

The “Instapoet” Rupi Kaur’s originally self-published collection Milk and Honey has sold more than half a million copies in the US and is into its 16th printing, according to its publisher.

Known as an Instapoet for the traction she gains online with her poetry that deals with violence, abuse and femininity, the collection was first self-published almost two years ago, in November 2014. It went on to top charts in North America and was snapped up by Andrews McMeel Publishing, which released its own edition in October that year.

“We thought it would sell well, but the momentum of sales that took off in March this year was very exciting, especially when the book hit the New York Times bestseller list,” said publisher and president Kirsty Melville. “We have sold over half a million copies and are currently in our 16th printing.” Melville added that on average, a strong-selling poetry book would sell less than 30,000 copies a year.

. . . .

“The emotional intensity of Rupi’s message of self-empowerment and affirmation, combined with her passionate audience really resonated and we could see through sales of her self-published edition that her readers were really responding to her message,” she said. “Rupi’s honest, authentic voice speaks to young people who relate to her depiction of pain and struggle but ultimate sense of hope. Rupi is not afraid to challenge taboos, and this brave form of expression inspires her readers.”

Link to the rest at The Guardian

What happened to this industry?

13 September 2016

From author Colleen Hoover:

There has been a lot of divide recently in this writing industry. Many have noticed and many have not. A lot of very serious accusations, a lot of arguing, a lot of “he said, she said” going on. Most of it has been between authors, which is sad for the readers. I’ve been seeing a lot of comments and posts in my newsfeed lately from people who are saying it didn’t used to be like this.

You’re right. It didn’t.

When I first got into this industry at the very beginning of 2012, there wasn’t much of an online reading community. There were a handful of indie authors and a handful of readers who interacted with us. It was all new. It was exciting. It was surreal.

A lot of us had huge things happening in our lives. We were experiencing life changes that took us from being poor to actually making a decent living with the books we were writing. If you’ve been in this industry for a few years, you know that 2012 and 2013 were beautiful years to be an indie. Amazon had yet to introduce Kindle Select and other avenues that promote free books, and piracy was barely even an issue back then. The market wasn’t flooded and I could actually name on my fingers and toes all the indie authors who were writing contemporary romance.

When an indie author published a book, it was likely the only book being published that week, so it got pushed by everyone. The business was growing exponentially. The authors who were in it at the time were getting more and more publicity. We were all flying high and it was great and the world was at our fingertips. It’s easy to not feel jaded or respond negatively to life when everything is going right with your career and the sky is the limit.

And then 2014 happened.

The industry was such a great place to be, everyone became a part of it.

. . . .

When I look at this indie industry now, I am blown away by how much it has grown. There are so many releases each and every day, it’s impossible to keep count now, and that’s a beautiful thing. There are more blogs than we can keep up with, but even with that many blogs, there are more authors than bloggers can review. Every day it grows and every day many reminisce about “the way it used to be.”

I assume we’re all struggling now, but I’m just going to use myself as an example here.

I have a much larger audience now than I did in 2013. I probably had about 20,000 followers on Facebook back then. Now I have over 300,000. My signings in 2013 saw about 20-30 people in attendance. Now I sometimes draw crowds of hundreds, and even upwards in the thousands.

Yet, I sell maybe 1/10th of the books I used to sell.

Link to the rest at Colleen Hoover and thanks to Alexis for the tip.

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

Self-Published Book Beats the Odds By Making New York Times Bestseller List

9 September 2016

From author Eva Lesko Natiello via The Huffington Post:

When I self-published my book, admittedly, it was the last resort. It was the backup plan if I had failed to sell it to a trade publisher. I promised myself that if I couldn’t sell it, or find an agent to represent me, I would not tuck it in a drawer and forget about it. No. I worked too hard. If that happened, I would self-publish. That promise reassured me during the querying and submissions. It was comforting until it was my reality. I didn’t think I’d ever need the backup plan.

Quickly, the consolation prize felt very much like a booby prize. It was difficult for me to warm up to the plan I had planned. I felt like a failure. It’s hard enough to self-publish a book (as I would soon find out) when you’re excited. How would I attack this endeavor now, feeling half-hearted and insecure? A bunch of rejections could really make you feel differently about the book you were (once) proud of.

Sometimes people ask me, “When did you start to write it and how long did it take?” I can see them doing the math in their head. Hmmm, they say, “So you finished it seven years ago? What took you so long to publish it?”

. . . .

So what took so long? First of all, one should never underestimate the amount of time it takes to amass a ton of rejections. The other thing that took a chunk of time was learning the business of self-publishing. I had promised myself this too: if I were to act on my backup plan, I wouldn’t do it without studying the process, to give myself the best chance of success. It was unglamorous and worth every minute. I didn’t know it back then, but self-publishing is just a different way to do the thing I always wanted: to entertain readers. You can’t do that unless you produce something for them to read.

. . . .

It doesn’t really matter, in the end, how it gets to market. You know who taught me that? The more than 20,000 people who bought my book last week driving it to The New York Times Bestseller List.

Link to the rest at The Huffington Post

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

A Return to Print? Not Exactly

7 September 2016

From Bloomberg:

E-books are not taking over the world! That seems pretty clear from a Pew Research Center survey released last week, which showed that the percentage of Americans who read digital books hasn’t risen since 2014.

. . . .

The survey didn’t show any real sign of a print resurgence either, though. Overall, the percentage of Americans consuming books in any form appears to be trending modestly downward. By holding steady, e-books are thus gaining a bit of ground over print.

This is not exactly the “return to print” story that the nation’s book publishers have been telling lately. Yes, the Association of American Publishers reported in June that physical book sales were up in 2015, and that sales in brick-and-mortar bookstores rose, too. The percentage of people who read books is down a little, but the people who do read books are buying more of them. That’s what one should expect of a mature industry in an improving economy — which is certainly better than being in a rapidly declining industry like newspaper publishing.

The AAP also reported, though, that e-book revenue was down 11.3 percent in 2015 and unit sales down 9.7 percent. That’s where things get misleading. Yes, the established publishing companies that belong to the AAP are selling fewer e-books. But that does not mean fewer e-books are being sold. Of the top 10 books on Amazon’s Kindle bestseller list when I checked last week, only two (“The Light Between Oceans” and “The Girl on the Train,” both mass-market reissues of novels that have just been made into movies) were the products of major publishers. All the rest were genre novels (six romances, two thrillers) published either by the author or by an in-house Amazon imprint. Their prices ranged from 99 cents to $4.99.

. . . .

Book publishers are what business-school professors call two-sided platforms, or two-sided markets. They’re selling books to readers, but also selling publishing services to authors. When it comes to e-books, the established publishers are choosing not to offer a very good deal to either. After Amazon’s early experiment with limiting Kindle prices to $9.99, publishers now set the prices, and for prominent new books they’re often in the $12.99 to $14.99 range — not much less than the discounted hardcover price on Amazon. And even though publishers spend a lot less to produce and distribute e-books than paper ones, they generally don’t offer authors a bigger cut of the proceeds.

The publishers have instead chosen to prioritize physical books, and you can’t entirely blame them. Most book buyers still seem to prefer reading books on paper (I do, unless I’m traveling), and keeping physical bookstores alive seems like a much better deal for publishers than relying on an all-powerful Amazon to distribute all of their products.

. . . .

There are a few problems with this steady-as-she-goes scenario. The most obvious is that Amazon doesn’t really do detente. It’s now opening its own physical bookstores, and surely has other plans up its sleeve. Another is that cheap genre fiction is a lucrative business that publishers didn’t really want to give up. (News Corp, owner of Big-Five publisher HarperCollins, bought romance-novel publisher Harlequin, which has been hammered by the rise of digital self-publishing, in 2014.) Finally, the rise of e-books fits Harvard Business School professor Clayton Christensen’s classic model of disruptive innovation so perfectly that it seems unwise to assume that it is already all played out. This is from the introduction to Christensen’s book “The Innovator’s Dilemma”:

Generally, disruptive technologies underperform established products in mainstream markets. But they have other features that a few fringe (and generally new) customers value. Products based on disruptive technologies are typically cheaper, simpler, smaller, and, frequently, more convenient to use.

Established companies naturally focus on serving their existing customers, who aren’t all that interested in the new product. They also look at the lower profit margins on the cheaper, simpler new product and think, “No, thanks.” This leaves the field to new entrants, who keep improving their product and luring new customers until it becomes dominant. The former industry leaders are left on the sidelines wondering what went wrong.

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

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