Macmillan’s Pronoun Self-Publishing Platform Signs Off

7 November 2017

From Publishing Perspectives:

Some eyebrows were raised in the spring of 2016 when Macmillan bought Pronoun. And today (November 6), the trade publisher has announced that it’s closing the self-publishing platform.

“We are proud of the product we built,” the publishing house says in an “Epilogue” posted on the home page of the site, “but even more so, we’re grateful for the community of authors that made it grow. Your feedback shaped Pronoun’s development, and together we changed the way authors connect with readers.”

The statement doesn’t elaborate on how Pronoun is deemed to have “changed the way authors connect with readers.” And its message is sobering: “Unfortunately, Pronoun’s story ends here.”

The statement avoids any clear explanation of why the Pronoun is being shut down.

. . . .

Pronoun was assessed by many in the self-publishing community (as by Doppler in an earlier ALLi review) as a fairly simple interface for ebook creation by comparison to the Kindle Direct Publishing (KDP) system.

And yet, there was at times a community-wide hesitation around the platform because it charged nothing. Authors retained their rights and 100 percent of a retailer’s net payment–no cut to Pronoun. Doppler wrote in that earlier review that Pronoun’s services were free to authors because the company had $3.5 million in venture capital funding from Avalon Ventures and revenue from “its not-insubstantial legacy business.” Future revenue, he wrote, would come from “voluntary partnerships with high-performing authors. These authors may be invited to publish through Pronoun’s traditional imprints, giving up a share of royalties for enhanced services.”

. . . .

Pronoun spokeswoman Allison Horton was quoted by Doppler last year saying an ambitious thing for a company about to be bought by a Big Five trade publisher: “Pronoun’s goal is to make indie publishing so successful that it becomes the predominant way great books are published.”

Link to the rest at Publishing Perspectives and thanks to Andrew for the tip.

PG says large and established corporations sometimes purchase tech startups to move into new markets and inject new thinking and dynamism into the parent organization.

It never works.

The employees in the mothership sense an alien presence and organizational antibodies attack. Various and sundry corporate practices are imposed on the acquisition and its people. The startup (now a “division” or “department”) must adopt corporate budgeting processes and conduct quarterly performance reviews for all its employees. Company-wide “best practices” will, of course, be best practices for the new acquisition.

Within a couple of months, the most talented of the startup employees who have not been required to sign employment agreements start thinking about new jobs.

Headhunters swarm to any new source for good tech/internet marketing/programming/etc. talent. People who are valuable to the acquired startup are also valuable to other innovative companies who aren’t under attack from corporate antibodies and where nobody has to sit through mandatory lectures from HR.

The people who have signed employment agreements suffer from constantly declining morale as the most talented members of their team leave for greener pastures. They discover that attracting equivalent talent from outside the mothership is almost impossible and have no choice but to use not-so-talented tech people from elsewhere in the larger organization.

Development of the product slows down, then it slows down some more. Product release schedules are revised. Planned new features are dropped because they’re taking too long to develop. Upper management requires much more frequent updates on progress and hard commitments for new product releases. The new product features list is cut down even further. People start talking about how to get the minimum acceptable product out the door by the scheduled deadline. Nobody even remembers why the new product seemed like a good idea several months ago.

The during his/her regular meetings with the big boss and the quarterly meetings of the board, the CFO of the mothership brings more and more discouraging reports about the acquired company. Nobody can project when it might become profitable.

Managers in other parts of the company that are profitable increase the intensity of their criticisms of the CEO’s formerly pet project.

The OP indicates that it took about 18 months for Pronoun to morph from a sexy investment in Macmillan’s future to an unacceptable boat anchor that was never going to meet revenue and profit standards for the company.

Amazon Kindle deserves some praise on its 10th birthday

30 October 2017

From The National:

The iPhone has received a good deal of hype this year as it celebrates its 10th anniversary, but another important device is just about to reach that same milestone.

The Kindle is set to turn 10 on November 19, and while not as revolutionary as Apple’s flagship product, Amazon’s e-book reader is responsible for its own share of change.

And, just like the iPhone, it has also been emblematic of Amazon’s approach to both innovation and customers. It’s a good example of why the two companies are currently positioned so differently in consumers’ minds.

Just as Apple didn’t invent the smartphone, the Kindle wasn’t the first electronic book reader. Amazon improved on predecessors such as the Sony Librie and the long forgotten Rocket eBook with a lightweight and portable device that used an innovative “electronic ink” display to take the pain out of reading books on a screen.

More importantly, it was affordable.

. . . .

If the iPhone unleashed the app economy, then the Kindle sparked a self-publishing revolution that changed how the long-form printed word is created, distributed and sold.

Kindle Direct Publishing, which launched in conjunction with the e-reader in 2007, allowed writers to skip publishers and sell their works straight to consumers. E-books could be sold for as low as 99 cents, with Amazon keeping just a small cut rather than the lion’s share, as publishers generally do.

. . . .

Amazon has never disclosed how many e-readers it has sold, but estimates have pegged the number in the multi-millions. E-books, meanwhile, have gobbled up as much as a quarter of the overall book market in a number of countries.

. . . .

Amazon and Apple’s biggest clash was over e-books. Publishers, fearing Amazon’s growing power, conspired with Apple to counter that influence by fixing e-book prices. In 2014, Apple settled with U.S. anti-trust authorities, giving Amazon customers credits for the over-payments they were forced to endure.

Link to the rest at The National and thanks to Dave for a second tip today.

Self-Published ISBNs Hit 786,935 in 2016

22 October 2017

UPDATE: Data Guy just posted the following:

FWIW, of the 1,417,793 ebooks that have sold 1 or more US copies in the last 6 months:

653,188 had ISBNs
764,605 didn’t

And that’s ebooks from ALL types of publishers, not just indies.

From Publishers Weekly:

A new report issued by Bowker found that a total of 786,935 ISBNs were issued to self-published authors in 2016, an 8.2% increase over 2015.

According to the report, ISBNs for print books rose 11.3% to 638,624 titles, while e-book ISBNs for self-publishers fell 3.2% to 148,311. Since Bowker measures the number of self-published books by ISBN, its count does not include e-books released by authors through Amazon’s KDP program, as they use ASIN identifiers rather than an ISBNs.

The 11% increase in print self-published titles was a slower gain than the 34% increase in 2015 over 2014. While the number of self-published e-books did fall in 2016, the decline was slower than the 11% drop reported in 2015.

“Overall, we believe that these numbers point toward an ongoing maturation and stabilization of the self-publishing industry,” said Beat Barblan, director of identifier services at Bowker.

Amazon’s CreateSpace was by far the largest publisher of self-published print books, releasing 501,043 titles. The output marked an increase of 18.2% over 2015. Lulu was second, publishing 41,907 titles in the year, a decline of 5.1%. Coming in third was Blurb, which released 21,365 self-published titles last year. Author Solutions released 19,270 self-published print titles (through multiple imprints) last year, for a decline of 6.4%.

Link to the rest at Publishers Weekly

Freelancers Are Planning For The Future Of Work Faster Than Anyone Else

17 October 2017
Comments Off on Freelancers Are Planning For The Future Of Work Faster Than Anyone Else

From Fast Company:

The freelance workforce is growing more than three times faster than the U.S. workforce overall, according to the annual “Freelancing in America” (FIA) survey by Upwork and the Freelancers Union, released today. The number of U.S. freelancers now stands at 57.3 million, representing an 8.1% jump over the last three years, when the FIA survey estimated the total American freelance workforce at 53 million. By comparison, the U.S. workforce as a whole grew 2.6%, from 156 million to 160 million, over the same period.

At this rate, freelancers will be the majority by 2018. But perhaps more striking is the finding that freelancers seem to be preparing for this future more swiftly than their counterparts at traditional employers.

. . . .

[N]early half (49%) of full-time freelancers told researchers that their work is already feeling the impact of AI and robotics. Only 18% of the traditional workforce said the same.

Perhaps that’s why 65% of independent workers claimed to be staying on top of career prep as jobs and skills evolve and machine learning gets more sophisticated; more than half said they’ve set aside time to brush up just within the past six months. That’s in contrast to 45% of non-freelance workers who are taking similar steps.

. . . .

“Professionals who choose to freelance make this choice knowing that, as their own boss, they are in control of their destiny,” Kasriel explained in a statement. “Freelancers, therefore, think more proactively about market trends and refresh their skills more often than traditional employees, helping to advance our economy.”

Link to the rest at Fast Company

PG says indie authors are freelancers as well and the successful ones “think more proactively about market trends and refresh their skills” in the same way tech freelancers do.

Without demeaning traditional authors, in PG’s experience, many rely on their publishers to advise them on market trends and pay less attention to understanding new technologies and how their readers may be changing. Since traditional publishers are highly resistant to change (see “screen fatigue”), PG suggests such reliance may be unwise.

Self-Publishing ISBNS Climbed 8 Percent Between 2015 and 2016

12 October 2017

From No Shelf Required:

Since 2011, International Standard Book Numbers (ISBNs) for self-published titles have climbed 218.33%, according to the latest report from Bowker. A total of 786,935 ISBNs were assigned to self-published titles in 2016; in 2011, that number was 247,210.

This new study from Bowker highlights the latest self-publishing trends in print and ebook formats. For 2016 vs. 2015, the numbers indicate a continuing growth trend for print (+11%), though at a slower rate than a year ago (+34%). Ebooks show a slight decline in the number of title registrations (-3%), but this is a significantly smaller decrease compared to the prior year (-11%).

“Overall, we believe that these numbers point toward an ongoing maturation and stabilization of the self-publishing industry,” notes Beat Barblan, Director of Identifier Services at Bowker.

Link to the rest at No Shelf Required

PG wonders what percentage of indie authors use ISBNs these days.

Indie authors: Your Pub Date is Not As Important as You Think

11 October 2017

From Writer Unboxed:

The pub date: THE big day of an author’s life, right? All of the toiling, editing, revising and decision-making comes down to a fateful 24 hours — a speck on the calendar, but a very important speck.

Or so they say. But that’s not necessarily the case, at least, not for us indie authors.

We hear a lot about the all-important pub date as authors, but it’s important to parse whom the pub date really matters to and why. For traditionally published authors, a book’s success can largely hinge on early sales. Much attention is given to garnering pre-orders in hopes of pushing a book onto a bestseller list during release week and encouraging retailers to order more books.

For an indie pre-orders and a strong launch matter too. But an indie can and should imagine the book’s launch as one among several, long-term opportunities.

There are a number of reasons for this. First, indie authors have the advantage of focusing on one single title or set of titles: our own. Unlike publishers, who may be juggling many dozens of titles each season, we indies can put all of our energy and attention into the books we have written and published. Often, publishers place disproportionate emphasis on the pub date because with dozens of titles to manage, that date provides them with a logical point for turning their attention and resources to  the next book.

Second, our overall marketing and sales model is different. We aren’t worried about strong pre-sales enticing booksellers to buy large quantities of our books because we aren’t able to penetrate the bookstore market anyway. Instead, we have direct access to our readers and therefore can largely bypass bookstore sales in favor of online or direct sales.

. . . .

I did everything necessary to help my novel hit an Amazon bestseller list around its pub date, but that did not pan out. It was only months later, after I ran a discount promo on Amazon with a hook about Comicon, blasted it all over social media, and combined that with a few online ads that sales began really taking off and I hit the coveted best-seller ranking!

Link to the rest at Writer Unboxed

Ripped Bodice’s Racial Diversity in Romance Report Reveals Grim Numbers

9 October 2017

From Book Riot:

Romance publishing has a serious diversity problem and we now have the data to prove it. Readers of the genre know the challenge that finding traditionally published romances by authors of color can be. However, up to this point, there hasn’t been actual data on the issue. Enter the lovely ladies of The Ripped Bodice, the only romance specialty store in the country. Bea and Leah Koch crunched the numbers and published their first “The State of Racial Diversity in Romance Publishing” report, based on 2016 new releases. It’s pretty startling stuff. The report looks at racial disparities in mainstream romance publishing and is accompanied by some pretty rad infographics to show readers just how completely horrifying their results were.

The Koch sisters say that they became “increasingly aware” of the problem of racial disparity in romance publishing through their interactions with customers of The Ripped Bodice. People were coming into the store looking for books by authors of color that were traditionally published, but Bea and Leah were running low on suggestions.

“We have found it difficult to continue the conversation about diversity in romance without hard data,” says report co-author Leah Koch. “For many years the common refrain from publishers has been ‘we’re working on it.’ Every year we will track industry growth and see if that promise rings true.”

 “Honestly we were shocked at how abysmal the numbers are,” says Bea Koch. “We thought they would be bad, [but] we didn’t think they would be this bad.”

Twenty publishers were invited to participate in the process. More than half of those invited actively engaged in the process and contributed statistics and information on racial diversity for the study.

. . . .

“While many groups are still woefully underrepresented in the romance genre, including people with disabilities, marginalized religious groups, and members of the LGBTQ community, we had to start somewhere. This is a difficult subject to discuss, but racial discrimination is one of the largest barriers to equality in any professional industry. Publishing is not immune.”

. . . .

“It’s too important. We have to start with laying out the facts. This is the genre we love and have devoted our lives to. We all need to do better. The traditional romance publishing industry is going to collapse if it doesn’t start hiring authors that reflect the current U.S. population. We’re hopeful that by contributing this data to the discussion, we will start to see real change.”

Link to the rest at Book Riot

PG says the traditional romance publishing industry is already collapsing because more and more romance authors have learned they can give up their day jobs and/or earn a better living by self-publishing.

And none of the indie publishing platforms discriminate against authors on the basis of race.

Five Years is Forever in Indie Publishing

6 October 2017

From Dean Wesley Smith:

Well, I spent the last two nights going back and trying to update and then even fisk my own post from five years ago about pricing. What a fool’s errand.

The post was so out of date, I just kept shaking my head in amazement and wondering who wrote it.

I was looking at it through 2017 glasses and a ton of new knowledge. Stunning, just stunning how many changes in this business have happened.

. . . .

Electronic Pricing… Novels

Genre matters. Range from $3.99 to $6.99, with romance being on the lower side, mystery on the upper side.

Length does not seem to matter at all.

All the studies have shown that you get above $6.99 and you start hitting price resistance for electronic books unless the book is something really special.

You go below $3.99 and you leave yourself no room for discounting or short-term sales.

You get down into the 99 cent area and you are in a trash ghetto.

And yes, I do know about the stupidity of ever-free. Just say no. However, doing a deep discount on a first novel of a series will get you readers. But make sure those readers pay something otherwise you attract the wrong kinds of readers. And secondly, you have to have the rest of the series priced decently for genre to make the first book discount look worthwhile.

. . . .

Paper Pricing… Novels

The old general rule of $2.00 profit in extended distribution in CreateSpace has become meaningless. Get your price down as much as you can. Under $10 is the best for trade paper. $12.99 is fine as well. Above that you hit resistance unless the book is longer.

Length not only matters, it causes the price to go up. You have no choice, but try to keep the cost down as low as possible.

If you want to try to do some bookstore distribution (a folly in 2017 because as Author Earnings have reported, almost 80% of paper books are sold online these days. But if you want to try, go to IngramSpark to get into the Ingram Catalog. (Yes, you can do two editions, one on CreateSpace just for Amazon and the other at Ingram for larger distribution.

Link to the rest at Dean Wesley Smith

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

The Instagram Poet Outselling Homer Ten to One

4 October 2017

From The Cut:

Walking the Manhattan blocks near NYU, the poet Rupi Kaur wears a loose cream-colored suit and an air of easy self-assurance. Her hands rest in her pockets, her kimono-shaped jacket hangs open over a cropped black turtleneck, and she comfortably strides her realm: the realm of college freshwomen who have recently been or may soon go through breakups. She looks like someone prepared to tell you convincingly that “you / are your own / soul mate,” to quote one of her poems in its entirety.

Most professional poets cannot expect to be approached by fans. But Milk and Honey, the 25-year-old Punjabi-Canadian’s first collection of poetry, is the best-selling adult book in the U.S. so far this year. According to BookScan totals taken near the end of September, the nearly 700,000 copies Kaur has sold put her ahead of runners-up like John Grisham, J.D. Vance, and Margaret Atwood by a margin of more than 100,000. (In 2016, Milk and Honey beat out the next-best-selling work of poetry — The Odyssey­ — by a factor of ten.) And because Kaur’s robust social-media following (1.6 million followers on Instagram, 154,000 on Twitter) has been the engine of her success, she is accustomed to direct contact with her public. So, when a young woman stops her on the way out of Think Coffee — “I love your work!” — Kaur greets her with a hug, poses for a selfie, then turns and calls back to her publicist. “She preordered the second book!”

. . . .

 Kaur’s father, as it happens, was a truck driver: The family came to Canada from India when she was 4, and moved around in pursuit of his work before settling in Toronto’s Brampton neighborhood for her adolescence. In classic immigrant-parent fashion, they encouraged her to study science. But she resisted, and although parental disapproval precluded her original goal of fashion school, when the time came for university, she applied to business programs. “Publishing a book was never really the intention,” she says. Still, she’d been putting her writing on blogs for years, and kept a Tumblr before switching over primarily to Instagram. She released Milk and Honey through Amazon’s CreateSpace platform in 2014, and it was rereleased the following year by the publisher Andrews McMeel. Best known for collections of comic strips like “Calvin and Hobbes,” Andrews McMeel has lately become home to a number of poets who first established themselves online, like Kaur and Lang Leav. Leav’s collection Love and Misadventure was a self-published hit before AMP picked it up in 2013; they’ve since released four more of her books. Khloe Kardashian once posted a Lang Leav poem on her estranged husband Lamar Odom’s birthday.

Link to the rest at The Cut and here’s a link to Rupi Kaur’s Instagram feed

Driving Down the Price of Publishing

14 September 2017

From Good Ereader:

Not too long ago, self-published authors were collectively admonished about the need to invest in their work. Hiring quality editors, proofreaders, cover designers, and formatters before attempting to sell a book was the constant mantra of industry experts. While some hapless writers continued to slap their Word docs up on Amazon and hope to snare a few readers, authors who took their careers seriously made the proper investments.

Around that time, a number of startups emerged, all billing themselves as eBay-like marketplaces for author services. Many of those startups have shuttered their virtual doors, while a few that produced meaningful connections between authors and publishing service providers have managed to thrive. But that hasn’t stopped newcomers to the game from trying to continually undercut the concept of paying for quality work.

“When I first began finding clients through online freelance postings, the self-publishing industry was a different place,” stated one editor who did not wished to be named. “Authors who had done their homework not only knew how much editing might cost, but they also knew enough to have sent their work to their writing group for critiques or even beta readers before declaring it ‘ready’ for editing. Now, I find new job postings almost daily requesting full edits of an 80,000-word book for $100.”

That’s one of the double-edged swords of self-publishing, of course. An indie author without a solid backlist and sales to go with it may not be able to invest thousands of dollars for a full suite of services, but that doesn’t change the income needs of those who are expected to do the work.

“I love spending time with other local authors, but conversations about finding editors and cover designers have become heartbreaking,” said Andrea Patten, award-winning author of The Inner Critic Advantage: Making Peace With the Noise in Your Head. “Poor quality isn’t good for any of us. If we don’t support talented, experienced editors and designers, all that will be left are those who are willing to be the lowest bidder.”

Link to the rest at Good Ereader

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