Selling and Distributing Your Book: What Self-Published Authors Need to Know

From The Independent Publishing Magazine:

The road to writing a book is fulfilling, but it’s often so much more work than people tend to give it credit for. Even once the rounds of drafting and editing are complete, that’s not the end of the road. Rather, it’s the beginning of the sales and distribution process that actually gets your hard-wrangled book into the hands of readers.

This can be particularly challenging if you’re self-publishing. You won’t generally have the expertise or connections that large publishing houses do or the marketing resources at their disposal. Yet, we live in a world in which technology has broken down many of the traditional barriers to publishing. As such, self-publishing is now not only accessible, it can be a viable form of business.

Let’s take a moment to explore a few of the things that you need to know if you’re planning on diving into self-publishing sales and distribution. What strategies and methods can work for you? How can you best go about reaching your audience?

Build Relationships

One of the most important things to remember when selling and distributing your book is that you shouldn’t go it alone. Yes, you may be an independent author, but attempting to take care of everything is a surefire recipe for burnout. This doesn’t mean that you need to hire a team, particularly if this is your first endeavor. However, it’s about building relationships with people who can make your publishing experience easier and more successful.

If you can make it to the big industry book fairs —  BookExpo America (BEA) in the U.S., Frankfurt and London, internationally — this can be a great opportunity to start cultivating relationships with distributors. BEA in particular has also started to see more ebook distributors attending if you are targeting the digital markets. Major and independent businesses alike will either have their own booths at these events, or they’ll have representatives. Make efforts to get to know them personally. Be interested in what their goals are and how you can help. Even if these distribution representatives can’t take on your book, they may be able to provide you with advice and introductions that can help you move the process forward.

However, you should also make efforts to cultivate relationships with independent bookstores. If your book is in print, booksellers can make a huge difference in where it is featured on the shelves and whether it is recommended to readers. Reach out to stores, particularly if you plan a small tour with readings and events to promote your book. If you’re attending festivals, make inquiries with independents about stocking some copies and the potential for putting together an event at the same time. These relationships are mutually beneficial — you get your book into stores, and independent sellers can compete with the online marketplace.

Focus on Marketing

One of the challenges of selling and distributing your self-published book is making sure that people actually know it exists. This begins with increasing your online presence. Make a clean, professional-looking website that also has personal touches. This should certainly include a blog that you update regularly. Make sure that you are not just present on social media, but active. One of the mistakes too many self-published authors make is to just self-promote their books on their platforms, targeted at no one in particular. Engage with your followers on social media, make content that they actively want to consume — perhaps about the genre you write in or even the writing process itself. Reply to commenters, invite responses to your tweets, and go out of your way to join discussions with other authors in similar fields.

As an independent operation, you have the freedom to take your marketing down some more creative avenues. Merchandise can be a fun method here. Creating t-shirts and other apparel featuring your book’s characters or a witty quote can both cultivate a sense of fandom and also be talking points when people see other readers wearing them on the street. It’s a form of guerilla advertising. Selling and delivering apparel doesn’t have to be prohibitively expensive, either. If you’re printing items in bulk and shipping them yourself, you can usually save some money with prepaid postage and boxes that are provided by the shipping company. You certainly don’t want to risk paying for damaged items, either, so take the time to pack clothes securely, with the garment protected inside a polythene bag.

Diversify Everything

One of the many things you’ll learn as a self-published author is a need for agility. Without the ability to adapt to various challenges and even roles, you are unlikely to get very far. As such, you can benefit from taking the attitude that you need to diversify everything.

This should include:

●     Your Income

When you’re just starting, you’re unlikely to make a livable salary from your book. As such, it’s worth taking on freelance writing work that you can perform around your publishing efforts. There are additional challenges this presents. Negotiating pay requires some research into the current markets, not to mention confidence to advocate for yourself. You also need to devote time toward outreach to ensure you have enough work, and administrative tasks like invoicing. However, this is largely a matter of good organization, and this can diversify your income in a way that allows you to keep prioritizing your book.

●     Your Distribution Methods

When you don’t have resources, you’ll need to be more agile about how you get your book out there. You may have to make regional deals with smaller distribution companies, rather than conglomerates that also take care of overseas territories. You might also have to take care of ebook publishing on each platform. If you can’t sign an exclusive deal with a provider, this means you need to capture your ebook readers wherever they can find you.

Link to the rest at The Independent Publishing Magazine

For quite a while, PG has operated under the belief that the ebook royalty rates Amazon pays for indie authors who are exclusive with Zon outweigh the extra money indie authors can make by going wide (remembering that every distributor has its own royalty structure).

In other words, a given indie author could make more money from ebooks (the large majority of the money indie authors make are from ebooks) by exploiting the higher rate Amazon pays than using other reputable ebook distributors (Draft2Digital is the one PG hears/reads the most about.)

As PG was reading the OP, he wondered if his belief was still correct or if something has changed with ebook purchasers, ebook distributors, etc., that make going wide a more profitable approach.

PG is happy to hear opinions and would be particularly interested in seeing blog posts and stories from successful indie authors that compare the costs and returns of going wide vs. Amazon.

PG also admits that he is a bit cautious with articles on independent websites focused on information for indie authors like the OP because he’s concerned they may have affiliate income or advertising deals with other ebook distributors that they don’t have with Amazon.

But PG could be wrong about that in more than one case.

“Enterprise self-publishing” is coming

From Mike Shatzkin at The Idea Logical Company:

The book business is in the early stages of its third great disruption in the past quarter century. The first two both changed the shape of the industry and created winners and losers across the entire value chain: touching every step from how authors got money to how readers got books. Significant institutional players were lost in both prior disruptions, and all the ones who remained had to change their models and practices significantly.

The cause of the disruption on both prior occasions and now was the introduction of asymmetric competition. Before 1995, publishing and retailing were the province of entities that did it in a businesslike way, usually for profit but always within an organizational structure dedicated to their publishing or retailing activity.

Amazon changed that in the 1990s when they were able to sustain virtually profit-free retailing, employing two points of leverage which they uniquely discovered. One is that they used book retailing as a customer acquisition tool: they always had the intention to make profits in other ways on the customers they sold books to. The other is that they persuaded Wall Street that their profit-less growth was valuable and that it was worth increasing their share price based on sales growth that didn’t (yet) produce profits. (Wall Street might also have been seduced by another unique feature of their model: positive cash flow on sales. Amazon would sell you a book today and take your money and they didn’t have to pay Ingram for the book they’d get and ship you tomorrow or the next day for another month or more!)

The second great disruption was spawned by Amazon’s Kindle, which was the big driver needed to galvanize what is a robust capability for authors to publish themselves. In this case, the asymmetry didn’t come from Amazon, but from the massive horde of independent self-publishing authors they have spawned. They have collectively crowd-sourced millions of titles into a market which was previously supplied pretty much exclusively by publishers. And authors often, if not usually, deliver their competitive titles with pricing strategies that a publisher paying royalties and rents and salaries couldn’t begin to match.

And now we are at the dawn of a third reordering of publishing’s structural and commercial landscape. The infrastructure capabilities spawned by the past dozen years of author self-publishing are now industrial strength. Ingram is the heart of this. It is literally the case today that all you need to be a publisher is a manuscript and a checkbook to pay freelancers; all you need to be a book retailer (print and digital) is customers. Ingram can provide all the rest, mostly with transaction-based pricing, so there are no large up-front investments required. Service organizations that handle details from copy-editing to cover design to press release copy for books, one of which I am helping to build now, are ubiquitous.

What I believe we are on the verge of seeing is that waves of entities will discover that they can clearly benefit from publishing books. Think of this as enterprise self-publishing. Every law firm, accounting firm, consulting firm, retailer, political campaign, cause organization, charity, and church, synagogue, or mosque is only a bit of imagination and effort away from books that can promote any variety of missions. These will be books delivered by a vast unaffiliated network of entities doing publishing as a “function”, not publishing as a “business”.

Across what will be many times the number of titles as are now being published, making money will sometimes happen. But in most cases the payoff from the publishing “investment” will be expected to be realized in other ways. The new players who are doing “publishing as a function” will also band together in countless opportunistic ways. But, once again, that asymmetry of economic purpose will be poison to people trying to publish books as a rational, stand-alone economic enterprise.

. . . .

The first big disruption — Amazon as a retailer — completely remade the retail network in less than two decades. The second — easily-enabled self-publishing — unleashed a tsunami of titles in competition with the ones delivered by the commercially-minded players. The combination has spawned two trends, neither of which has any end in sight.

The first trend is that the sale of books is increasingly online. If you add ebooks and books sold via customer-generated web ordering of print, it is well over half the business. Bookstores are less and less important to the overall sales profile, only three decades after they were the only player in many sales profiles. Mass merchants are paying somewhat more attention to books, but the biggest remaining chain dedicated to selling books, Barnes & Noble, is still shrinking.

The second trend is that the share of all book sales that is delivered by “real” publishers is also shrinking. That has been true for the many years since authors were empowered by Amazon, and then by IngramSpark, to put their books into the marketplace effectively without working through a publisher. But if I’m right that every business with a marketing or business development or client relations budget will explore how books can help their business, what the authors have spawned will be dwarfed by what enterprise self-publishing will do in the coming decade.

Link to the rest at The Idea Logical Company

How to Develop a Marketing and Promotion Plan as an Indie Author

From Jane Friedman:

I’m going to be honest, my initial foray into researching self-pub author publication and marketing threw me into a tailspin of information overload. There are so many paths and options to choose—but that’s the whole beauty of self-publishing, isn’t it? The following article was born of several author acquaintances asking me what paths and options I chose to launch my debut historical novel, Discerning Grace.

Before You Begin

Join the Facebook group called Wide for the Win.

No, seriously. Stop reading and go join them. It’s a brilliant free resource.

Even if you hate Facebook or don’t use it that much, you really should hop back on there just for this group. They really are that good! They share a boatload of intimate strategies about self-publishing. Search the Tree of Knowledge first. Readeverything there before you even think about asking questions on the main feed.

If the Tree of Knowledge is too tricky to navigate—it’s huge with zillions of threads and conversations—you can always buy the Wide for the Win ebook. It’s the brain child of Mark Leslie Lefebvre (from Draft2Digital) and Erin Wright (head honcho of Wide for the Win Facebook group). The information is much more structured and easier to navigate.

Setting Goals

I had to decide what I wanted from the first six months of my authoring journey: to be in the best-seller charts, to have thousands of downloads on a freebie, to garner early reviews, to grow my newsletter subscribers, or to roll in money like Scrooge McDuck?

I’ve picked two early goals: garner early reviews and grow newsletter subscribers.

My first-year goals

  1. Publish Discerning Grace (Book 1) in all formats (ebook, paperback, large print, audiobook)
  2. Get as many reviews for Discerning Grace (Book 1) as possible, on all storefronts
  3. Grow my newsletter subscriber list
  4. Publish Grace on the Horizon (Book 2) in all formats (ebook, paperback, large print, audiobook)

See how I don’t even mention $$$ or sales numbers in this first year? That’s not my goal (yet).

My second-year goals

  1. Publish Grace Arising (Book 3) in all formats
  2. Grow my newsletter subscriber list
  3. Run a BookBub 99c promo with Discerning Grace (Book 1) with the idea of achieving sell-through to Book 2 and Book 3
  4. Publish the trilogy box set (all 3 books in one)
  5. Run another BookBub promo on the box set
  6. Test paid advertising on Facebook, Amazon, and BookBub

Only after I’ve achieved these goals am I going to worry about money and sales numbers or paying for advertising. And only then will I work my strategies to grow these numbers into something that makes me a living (that’s a whole different topic for a different article—and for when I’ve crossed that bridge).

Now that I’ve laid out my goals, I’m going to stick to them. Of all the research I’ve read, it seems that most indie author careers only take off after 5 to 7 books. With only my first trilogy planned, I have a loooooong way to go, but having this knowledge also prevents self-flagellation in these early days. I’m running a marathon here, not a sprint.

Important: I Chose to Publish Wide

I am publishing wide, which means I am not prioritizing Amazon as an exclusive publishing platform over any other storefront. It just so happens to be one of my storefronts where my books are available. Here are the distributors I’m using.

  1. Ebooks: distributed through Draft2Digital(which distributes to Amazon Kindle, Apple Books, Kobo, Barnes & Noble, plus loads of other smaller international online storefronts, as well as libraries).
  2. Paperbacks: printed and distributed through IngramSpark (which distributes to Amazon storefronts in many countries, Barnes & Noble, plus smaller international online storefronts, and libraries).
  3. Audiobooks: produced and distributed through Findaway Voices linked to my Draft2Digital account but is a separate company (which distributes to all the same storefronts and libraries as Draft2Digital that also accept audiobooks, plus a few extra)
  4. Google Play: I’m only direct with this storefront because Draft2Digital doesn’t distribute to them

Some may think I’m nuts for not publishing directly to Amazon because Draft2Digital will take an additional 10% of my royalties (as it does from other retailers too), but the way I see it is if I was prepared to let an agent and a traditional publisher do the legwork, I would have been sharing a boatload more in commission. So, I personally don’t have an issue with giving Draft2Digital their dues for uploading to all the storefronts on my behalf.

I chose this route because self-publishing requires learning a lot (no, seriously, A LOT!) of new technology. My brain could only handle learning the dashboards of these four publishing/distribution companies to start with (preserving my time and sanity).

I was also cracking under the pressure of just THINKING about fixing a launch date with so many unknown variables ahead of me. So, I decided on a soft launch to take the pressure off myself. It’s for this same reason that I didn’t set up pre-orders and don’t ever plan on using them. I’ve seen too many tears from authors when it goes wrong. I’m not comfortable adding a potential problem to my plate.

Also, you know the saying, ‘Don’t keep all your eggs in one basket’? Using different publishing platforms ensures that if one company goes belly-up (or even has technical glitches), my books will remain in circulation in the other formats.

Link to the rest at Jane Friedman

As regular visitors to TPV know, PG is a big fan of Amazon.

He is also a big fan of Draft2Digital (disclosure – he provided D2D with legal services early during the company’s life).

In PG’s transcendentally humble opinion, D2D has a better platform for formatting an ebook than KDP provides. Mrs. PG has some books that are exclusive on Amazon (for the higher royalty rates) and others that are published on Amazon directly and on other platforms via D2D, so he’s familiar with the ebook formatting/publishing and sales reporting systems of both organizations.

With the vast technical resources of Amazon, one might think that Kindle Direct Publishing would have a sophisticated and flexible publishing platform for indie authors.

That ain’t so.

In PG’s observation, very few of the visible parts of the KDP publishing platform have been changed or updated in years and years and years. The publishing interface is clunky and has only become sort-of intuitive because PG has used it so frequently.

The KDP sales reports are also kindergarten stuff. They might have been impressive so some fifteen years ago.

There is a KDP Reports Beta that has been in “Beta” for months and months. KDP Reports Perma-Beta would be PG’s suggestion for a more-accurate title.

The Beta is an improvement, but still pretty pedestrian in its capabilities. Anybody who was reasonably competent in Excel could put together a more useful sales analysis spreadsheet and related graphs in a day or two.

Perhaps PG missed it on KDP, but he didn’t see one of the more common features present on a lot of other reporting websites – Export to Excel. Everybody has a Click to Download to Excel button.

D2D has Click to Download a whole bunch of information about sales:

  • Royalty Statements
  • Ebook Sales Reports
  • Print Sales Reports
  • Tax Form Downloads
  • An Account Ledger which appears to go back to the beginning of time for any author doing business with D2D.

To the best of his knowledge, the only KDP data you can export to Excel is information from the KDP Quality Notifications Dashboard – something of interest to Amazon folks who probably get dinged by their bosses if a single typo exists the appendix of more than three KDP books.

For the record, PG says you should try to avoid typos in your ebooks and fix those which anybody finds, but compared to detailed and timely sales information for indie authors, an Excel spreadsheet with comprehensive sales data is far more important.

And whatever information that allows an indie author to sell more books, to see what promotion strategies do and don’t work to goose downloads, should be of interest to KDP as well because more information lets smart authors figure out how to sell more books.

One additional point – The Kindle Create ebook formatting tool provided by KDP offers only ugly and generic design themes for ebooks. Yes, you can read them, but the resulting ebooks definitely have a generic, computer-generated look.

Draft2Digital has far more sophisticated ebook formatting tools than KDP offers. The resulting ebooks convey quality in the way they look in addition to the words they contain.

Therefore:

Amazon KDP – Wake Up! It’s 2021! If anybody from the Mother Ship notices what you’re doing, they won’t like what they see!

Draft2Digital – Keep on doing a Great Job! You can continue to be smarter and faster than The Zon!

Business Musings: Traditional Writers

From Kristine Kathryn Rusc h:

The other day, I got an email from a writer friend who was about to give advice to one of their friends. Seems that friend had a niche how-to book for parents who are dealing with a certain kind of health issue. My writer friend asked me, Is there any reason for this person to go to traditional publishing?

I looked at the whole thing with an unusual thought for me: Some niche products might do well in traditional. The friend of the writer friend (hereafter known as FoWF) wasn’t in this for the money or even to hold onto rights. FoWF wanted to get information out there, and really, wasn’t trad pub the way to do so?

I started answering my friend by email, and as I did, I realized that publishers know nothing about this niche field because there are no books about it. Which meant that FoWF would have to educate an editor, find places to market the book on their own, do all the social media, and…eventually FoWF would discover that the traditional publisher has no in with the places that could effectively sell this book, like seminars for parents of kids with this issue.

The more I typed, the more I realized that, nope, trad pub wouldn’t help FoWF at all. It might even hurt them, because the book wouldn’t sell well, which meant that it would probably go out of print. And it would be priced too high, so that parents struggling with this issue and day jobs and all the things parents struggle with probably couldn’t afford it. So I wrote:

But as I type this, I realize they can probably do all that on their own.

So, never mind.

No, there’s no advantage to traditional publishing.

Yeah, even I get tripped up once in a while, thinking—hoping—wanting traditional publishing to have some benefit for writers.

There really isn’t any. And anyone who would do a modicum of research about the field they’re trying to enter would learn that pretty darn quick.

In fact, traditional publishing itself tells you that in a myriad of ways—and has since I got into this field forty years ago. The evergreen article just appeared in that company town rag, The New York Times, in April under the title, “What Snoop Dog’s Success Says About The Book Industry.”

The article had this little tidbit: “…about 98 percent of the books that publishers released in 2020 sold fewer than 5,000 copies.”

That would be new releases, not backlist.

But here’s the thing that the company town rag doesn’t tell you: For decades, the majority of new releases from traditional publishers sold fewer than 5,000. For decades.

The new figure in this little equation isn’t the 5,000 copies; it’s the 98 percent. If you combine that with the other statistics that came out about our pandemic year, you’ll see that this is up by maybe about a third. Bookstore sales, which are generally frontlist, were down 30% in 2020.

We don’t have the statistics on how many frontlist books felt the impact of the closed bookstores which is why I think that percentage is higher, but we do know this: trad pub doesn’t know how to market direct to consumer, nor do they know how to market to any place other than a bookstore. Their ebook prices are too high, so a lot of readers migrated to other new-to-them books, which included a lot of backlist.

But the backlist isn’t up as much as trad pub would want you to believe. Backlist sales were 69% of all book sales in 2020. In 2019, backlist sales were 63%. Yes, the pandemic accelerated the rise of the backlist, but not by as much as the trad pub editors are screaming about.

And yet, traditional publishers don’t put any money into their backlist. They make backlist books extremely hard to find. They take the paper books out of print.

In May, I got Nora Roberts’ new book, and in the Books By Nora Roberts section up front, it had this gem: “Ebooks by Nora Roberts.” Those ebooks were the titles she wrote for Harlequin back in the day. Apparently, some not-so-brilliant exec figured that Nora’s fans who hadn’t read those books were undeserving of a paper edition.

Yeah, that’s pretty damn dumb. But I’m not seeing much intelligence from traditional publishing these days.

. . . .

I get emails all the time from writers like her, writers who are happy to have an agent for the book they want to publish through traditional, writers who like telling me that my head is up my ass for not promoting traditional book publishing, and—last week—a writer who asked, sideways, if I would be his agent for traditional publishing because I “clearly know so much about the business.”

What are these writers doing?

Well, not thinking for one.

But there’s more to it than that. They’re terrified of going down a path that they see as mostly untested. Never mind that many writers have been making a living at publishing their own books for a decade now. One of those writers, Lindsay Buroker, mentioned on Twitter last month that she’s been freelance for ten years now and has published roughly 80 books.

In the same amount of time that this other writer wrote one entire novel—and made zero dollars on it.

Examples like Lindsay’s, though, seem to make no difference to writers like the one I mentioned, because that writer is operating out of fear.

The writer wants someone to take care of her, and she’s not alone. She doesn’t want to learn the business. Like that writer who wrote to me, she wants someone else to learn the business so that she can…what? Be famous? Because writing clearly isn’t her passion, or she wouldn’t have wasted all this time on one book.

. . . .

But writers who want to go into traditional publishing feel they need several things. They need a curator—an editor—to tell them what they’re doing right or wrong with their books. They need an agent to “defend them” and do the messy stuff like learning contracts and dealing with money. They need a marketer to buy ads in all those (non-existent) places that advertise books. They need someone to handle sales and bookstores and…

They’re just too scared to do any of it themselves.

And that’s a shame.

The fact that there are vestiges of the 1950s and 1960s versions of publishing, where some of that stuff actually did happen, still around makes it hard for these folks to step out of their comfort zones and learn how the business is actually done these days.

And if these writers manage to sell something to a traditional publisher—a big if, as you can see from that writer above—they will sign away their copyright for a 4-figure advance, and lose their chance to ever have a writing career outside of what has become a small and narrow niche of publishing.

That niche is small and narrow. Bookstat with its narrow little focus on the big players in the bookstore economy found that of the 2.6 million books sold online in 2020, only 268 of them sold more than 100,000 copies that year. (I added that year because remember, traditional only looks at recent sales, not cumulative sales).

One blogger wrote this after she found that statistic:

As an author, this is distressing. If I can spend two to three years writing a novel and my best case scenario is having it sell a couple hundred copies on Amazon, perhaps it’s time to face the music and realize that writing books—like knitting or playing the harp—is nothing more than a hobby. Something I can do for fun on the weekends but should never hope to earn a living from.

Yep. Distressing.

Note all the fear in that paragraph. Two to three years writing one novel. What the hell? What is she doing the rest of the time? Actually playing the harp? Because real writers write. They don’t have people look over their shoulder, go over every word, churn out a paragraph a day, and then have agents ask them to rewrite the book to make it presentable for some editor who is going to lose their job in a year or so anyway.

Link to the rest at Kristine Kathryn Rusch

Here’s a link to Kris Rusch’s books. If you like the thoughts Kris shares, you can show your appreciation by checking out her books.

The Freedom to Change Genre as a Self-Published Author

From Woman Writers, Women’s Books

Traditional publishers like an author to stick to the genre that has been successful for them. Self-publishing provides an author the freedom to write in any genre they wish. However, anything you self-publish or is traditionally published under your name will be forever on Amazon, whether you like it or not. The only control you have is to stop self-publishing the titles you no longer want to distribute. But the title and description, and possibly used copies, will always be there, reminding you that you didn’t always write as well as you do now.

For me, writing and publishing started with my book THE CLAY CANVAS. I fell in love with the maiolica style of ceramic painting while living in Italy. After returning to the U.S. I found a way to replicate it using American products, and was soon doing commissions. Finding joy in creative painting on functional, everyday ceramics, I decided to write an illustrated guide not only to give instructions for the complete ceramic process, but also to give advice on finding inspiration, starting a business etc. The book was traditionally published and led to my writing dozens of articles for ceramics and crafts magazines.

Having discovered the joys of writing, I was eager to try my hand at fiction. A novel about World War II seemed the right place to start, as the war had never been far from my mind. I was born a year before the war ended, though luckily ten days after Rome was liberated. But the cost of that war was everywhere. It had exploded my Viennese Jewish-Catholic family, sending its members to three different continents, never to be fully reunited. I grew up with fellow displaced Europeans—many of them also Viennese—in Italy, Argentina and New York. I listened and absorbed their stories, understanding that the past is never really past, and there are losses you never get over even when life is good.

I wrote my novel and sent it out to publishers—something one could do thirty years ago. I received letters of encouragement but was told that the novel needed some structural changes. I tried to fix it but didn’t fully understand what was meant, so it remained unpublished as my husband and I moved to Switzerland for his work with the U.N. We stayed for six years and the novel was put aside.

When we returned my son surprised me by having it printed in book form. I was delighted and reformatted it and self-published it on Amazon. Then changed the cover and the title and republished it. A few friends ordered copies.

I joined a small writers’ group and began to write in earnest. I read books about writing, and took online writing classes. The more I learned, the more I realized what I had done wrong the first time around. I “unpublished” the early versions, but to my dismay the titles will live on on Amazon, though they are not available for purchase.

With the encouragement of my writers’ group, I wrote a new novel. But World War II still beckoned and I returned to the Vienna novel and totally changed the earlier version. I unexpectedly found myself writing about what life might have been for someone who had stayed in Vienna and lived through the war and its aftermath. In the process, I collected so much information, videos, articles, photographs, that I incorporated them into my website https://all-that-lingers.com.

I sought professional assessment to make sure I had it right this time, and then self-published. I soon discovered one major advantage of self-publishing. I could correct overlooked typos, reformat using Vellum, and change the cover to be more marketable. The new improved novel, ALL THAT LINGERS, was given a Kirkus star, received a silver star and honorable mention in book competitions and good customer reviews.

It was time to return to the novel I’d worked on before. THE BEST THING ABOUT BENNETT is not historical fiction, and not defined by war. It is the story of a woman who, in striving to become the person she had always longed to be, breaks out of her shell to find friendship, adventure and love. It was inspired in part by experiences my husband and I had in Uganda.

I debated whether to publish under a pseudonym, as it was a different genre, but realized there was no point. Amazon already had a record of my multi-genre writing.

I’d self-published an updated edition of my ceramic book, adding many more photographs, and also offering it in ebook format.

The designs I’d painted on a series of ceramic tiles had been the inspiration for watercolor paintings I used to illustrate a whimsical, alliterative alphabet book for children. I self-published that as well.

Link to the rest at Woman Writers, Women’s Books

Are Royalties Fair? A Publisher Weighs In

From Mark Gottlieb Talks Books:

The Authors Guild released a chilling report on January 5th showing a drastic decline in author earnings over the last decade. The New York Times article on the report largely blames this decline on Amazon’s dominance of the book marketplace. There’s no getting around the reality of this. Amazon’s share of the market grows each year, and their ability to insist on better terms and increased coop and other fees increases proportionally. Publishers are getting squeezed, and are, in turn, lowering the advances they pay for all but superstar projects.

At the same time that authors’ incomes have been dropping, the number of books being published, through publishers and self-published, has grown dramatically. Self-published books alone grew more than 28% in 2017, to over one million books published. With consolidation of the marketplace, lower advances, and an increasing number of books published, it’s no wonder authors are getting squeezed.

While it’s natural for authors and agents to prefer higher royalties, there seems to be a general recognition by most industry players that this isn’t the source of the problem. Even in the Authors Guild’s analysis, the focus isn’t on publishers paying more, except in the areas of eBooks and deeply discounted book sales.

“…is the current system of advances and royalties equally fair to all authors?”

The standard royalty rates in the publishing industry have evolved throughout history, the result of an ongoing push and pull between powerful literary agencies and publishers. I doubt there’s any objective way of establishing whether these rates are “fair,” and, if they aren’t, what “fair” royalties would be. In this blog post I want to look at a more nuanced question: is the current system of advances and royalties equally fair to all authors?

. . . .

Advances range broadly, from a few thousand dollars (or less) to millions, but royalties, at least among the top houses, are basically the same. Authors are paid, for hardcovers, 10% of the cover price on the first 5,000 copies sold, 12.5% on the next 5,000, and 15% thereafter. For paperbacks authors receive 7.5% of the cover price (occasionally with an escalator) and for eBooks 25% of the publisher’s net receipts. Many independent publishers pay lower royalties than these, but rarely do they pay higher. Competition between publishers takes the form of advance competition, with royalties generally being very similar, especially at the big houses.

“…it’s a can of worms that publishers don’t want to open up.”

Why don’t publishers compete on royalty rates? I suspect because it’s a can of worms that publishers don’t want to open up. It would make every deal very complicated, as there would be multiple rates to be negotiated. It’s a lot easier to just have a standard royalty rate and compete on advances (not to mention easier on the accounting department).

Also, it’s my understanding that often, the most powerful authors and agents have negotiated “most favored nation” clauses into their contracts, meaning that if that publishing house offers a higher royalty rate to a new author, they have to match that rate on these older contracts, which no one wants to do. Obviously, contracts and terms are confidential, so I’m sure there are deals out there that don’t follow this practice, but I ran this by a few agents who do very large deals and they confirmed that competition is generally on advances, not royalties.

. . . .

The Unfairness of the Current System

Fairness is subjective, of course, but it’s clear that some authors do a lot better in this system than others. I don’t mean that some authors sell more books than others; there’s nothing unfair about an author that sells more books making more money as a result. I mean that some authors get to keep a much bigger part of the value they generate than others.

Perhaps the easiest way to look at this is to consider the percentage of the publisher’s revenue that is paid to the author. Under standard royalties, an author gets roughly 20 to 30% of the publisher’s revenue for a hardcover, 15% for a trade paperback, and 25% for an eBook. So, very roughly, every hardcover release that earns out brings the author something like 25% of all revenue earned by the publisher. This percentage would drop once the paperback comes out, if it sells in significant numbers.

Obviously, an author that doesn’t earn out keeps a larger percentage of the total revenues than one who does. If an author gets a $100,000 advance, and has total net books sales of $100,000, the author keeps 100% of all revenue (in this scenario the publisher, of course, takes a bath).

“…the authors that earn out and sell very well fund the books that don’t earn out…”

Consider this from the publisher’s perspective: A book that earns out (assuming the advance was not trivial) is nicely profitable. A book that continues to sell well after earning out is incredibly profitable. In these scenarios, the publisher is keeping (something like) 75% of a book’s revenue. Of course, the publisher has to pay for printing and other expenses out of that 75%, but this still leaves room for significant profit. This profit goes to supporting the overhead of the publishing house and to funding another major cost—unearned advances. In other words, at any given publisher, the authors that earn out and sell very well fund the books that don’t earn out—the big celebrity memoir that disappoints, the amazing debut novel that falls flat, etc.

If a publisher didn’t have to pay advances, royalties could be significantly higher. How much higher would vary by publisher, but I do recall that at a publishing conference I attended a few years ago, one CEO of a major publishing house stated that their total payments to authors (advances and royalties) were between 40 and 45% of revenues. So if an author that earns out keeps 25% of revenues, royalties could be roughly 70% higher in a world without advances. This number is a rough swag, but considering that the majority of books don’t earn out, and the huge advances that are often paid in high-profile auctions for books that don’t work out, it’s likely in the right ballpark.

“The publishing business is notoriously unpredictable…”

So, the authors that earn out subsidize the authors that don’t, but this isn’t necessarily unfair. The publishing business is notoriously unpredictable (the first printing of the first Harry Potter book was around 1,000 copies). One can think of advances as being like fire insurance: If your home doesn’t burn down, you are subsidizing the person whose house goes up in flames. Yet it’s innately fair because no one knows whose house will wind up needing the coverage.

But this analogy only goes so far in describing the situation of authors. There is a subset of authors that have a reasonably good idea of how many copies they are likely to sell, at least relative to most authors. I’m going to focus on non-fiction here, because that’s the world I understand.

. . . .

“…while self-publishing is a great option for many authors, there are inherent limitations.”

Increasingly, they are turning to self-publishing as a more viable option. Rather than agree to a deal where the bulk of the profits will likely accrue to the publisher, some authors, particularly large-platform authors, are experimenting with this. But while self-publishing is a great option for many authors, there are inherent limitations. It is very hard to replicate the capabilities of a strong, experienced publisher, in everything from editorial attention and cover design to marketing and distribution. At BenBella, we’ve taken on a handful of already successful self-published books, and have frequently managed to sell five to tentimes as many books in our edition.

Link to the rest at Mark Gottlieb Talks Books and thanks to S. and others for the tip.

PG didn’t see a date on the OP, but thinks it may be a couple of years old.

The author of the OP is the Publisher at Benbella Books. Per the company’s website:

BenBella Books is a publishing boutique that aims to be the publisher of choice for a select group of authors who value personal attention, a partnership philosophy, flexibility and a creative approach to marketing.

Benbella lists two imprints, SmartPop Books, “Proudly geeking out about pop culture since 2003”, and Benbella Vegan, “Whether you’re a veteran vegan or simply experimenting with more veg in your diet . . . .”

Benbella’s website featured Broke in America: Seeing, Understanding, and Ending US Poverty and The Actor’s Life: A Survival Guide along with several other titles.

PG checked out each of these two titles on Amazon:

Broke in America: Seeing, Understanding, and Ending US Poverty, released in February, 2021, was ranked #200,724 in Kindle Store, #206,093 in Books and 48,984 in Audible Books & Originals.

The Actor’s Life: A Survival Guide, released in 2017, was ranked #87,034 in Kindle Store, #19,916 in Books and #8,166 in Audible Books & Originals.

PG picked the two Benbella books because they were the first two that showed up on the publisher’s Featured Titles listing. Other books from this publisher may be selling better right now.

PG suspects a lot of indie authors can point to books that are selling better on the Zon than the two PG checked out even with self-publishing’s “inherent limitations” whatever that means.

Rethinking and Book Wars

PG wishes he could say that he carefully positioned the prior two posts, Three Crucial Changes to the Book Publishing Industry and Dohle and Grant ‘Rethink’ the Book Business.

He didn’t. He just happened to read one shortly after the other last night and posted them when he had a bit of time today.

For PG, the Book Wars excerpt didn’t include much news or original insight. Regarding the OP comment, “commercially successful indie authors still represent a tiny fraction of the total,” the OP doesn’t mention that commercially successful traditionally-published authors also represent a tiny fraction of the total.

Additionally, PG doesn’t think that traditional publishing has shown any real signs of becoming more reader-centric. Look at the comments made by Dohle. Perhaps PG missed something, but Dohle’s remarks seemed to be exclusively focused on the industry and sounded like rehashed statements in corporatespeak that could have been made by any other publishing executive during the last thirty years.

“The Key Performance Indicators of this industry are all going in the right direction.”

PG will note that he first learned about and used Key Performance Indicators well over thirty years ago. Tailfins and flashy chrome hood ornaments are also going to be the big news coming out of Detroit this year.

The Secret To This Romance Author’s Success? Breaking All The Rules.

From Amazon Author Insights:

I can safely say that every time I’ve been asked to speak to aspiring writers, afterward, I’ve had not one, but several come up to me and say, “I can’t believe you did what you said you did. I was told never to do that. I was told never to break that rule.” This does not surprise me, but it saddens me. When I started writing, I too had a set of rules for writing romance (my genre) that I was under the impression were unbreakable. And I wrote within the confines of those rules.

It was only when publishing house after publishing house, agent after agent had rejected my submissions, and I’d decided that no one was ever going to read my books, that I threw the rules out the window. I then simply wrote what I wanted to write, wrote how the stories came to me, was true to them and my characters.

Then I published myself … And I’ve sold more than two and a half million books.

What are the rules I broke? First, I didn’t write what I thought people wanted to read. I didn’t research what might be popular — what might sell — and write that. I wrote stories that felt personal to me, that I enjoyed completely from writing to reading. The first book that I did this with was Rock Chick, and with it and the Rock Chick series, I broke all the rules:

I wrote in first person, and at that time, romance novels in first person were available, but not customary.

I wrote my heroine’s thoughts in a stream of consciousness. I had paragraphs — many of them — that were just one word. I put myself, and what would eventually be my readers, in the mind of my heroine, Indy. Not describing what she was thinking, but thinking what she was thinking as she was thinking it. It’s important to note that not everyone could get into that, and that’s understandable, even expected. It’s also important to note that the ones who did, really did.

. . . .

I didn’t censor my characters or their behavior. I didn’t think, “Oh, that might make her unlikeable, I need to switch that up, make her perfect.” I didn’t water down my aggressive, but loving heroes. I let them be them — real, imperfect, sometimes annoying, more times endearing (I hoped). They were great friends and good people, but they could (and often did) do stupid things (like we all do).

And my Rock Chicks were — and still are — hugely successful.

Once I let myself be free, my writing took off — not only in that people were reading it, but that I felt at liberty to create how I needed to create. To be true to what I was doing. It wasn’t about stepping out of bounds for the sake of it. It was about opening a cage and giving myself the freedom to fly.

In other words, I broke the rules for the sake of the stories. And I didn’t play it safe after my books started selling; I had to stay true to that process. I needed to keep spreading my wings, doing this for me, but also to give my readers something new and fresh, a story I was passionate about so they could enjoy it right along with me. 

Link to the rest at Amazon Author Insights

How to Publish Your Full-Length Novel or Any Other Book on Medium

From Medium:

Recently I published a full-length novel to the pages of Medium.

That is to say I took this 662-page trade paperback.

And turned it into the following 20-hour reading time online version now available to Medium subscribers.

. . . .

This appears to be a publication strategy neither well recognized nor taken seriously on the platform. But that could change.

In this article, I will explain how you can use Medium to bypass traditional publishing platforms and not only put your book online for the world to discover, but also get paid each time your book is read, either to completion or partially.

. . . .

If you are an author you ought to be able to use the information in this article to take in stride all the obstacles I faced trying to get my book onto Medium. I would say there are enough of these to deter most people from ever getting started, let alone completing the job.

But as you are about to discover, I am rather stubborn and I will figure out a way to get something done even if it means doing it inefficiently.

This was certainly the case 20 years ago after I finished up the writing of what I categorized at the time as a science thriller.

Because I failed to convince the literary agents I pursued that I deserved representation I ended up having to self-publish my book. That meant I had to typeset the entire thing, which I did in Word, before converting those pages into a publishable PDF format. The result was a hefty trade paperback (pictured above) which was made available as a print on demand title from Ingram’s Lightning Source division.

. . . .

On Medium the first part of my book is not metered, it is available to anyone to read. The second part lies behind the paywall.

If someone elects to read those latter pages, I get paid a certain (unknown) amount of their subscription fee for that month. This amount depends on how much time the reader allocates to my book in relation to how much time they allocate to other pages on Medium. The downside to this payment model is that I must assume most of the risk. Unless I have done an extremely good job with the first part of the book I am not going to make a penny on the second part of it (because readers will have disappeared before reaching it).

But this is the gamble I am making.

When publishing the pages of your own book you get to decide whether any particular page is metered or not. So it is entirely up to you to as to how your payment model will work. You could model my approach, or you could do something completely different.

Link to the rest at Medium

PG did a word search on the OP and could not find any reference to Amazon.

Beware of Books!

From Persuasion:

Literature used to be a place for transgressive ideas, a place to question taboos, and seek naked insights into humanity. It no longer is.

Critics, writers and publishers are today enforcing a new vision that treats books less as a vehicle for artistic expression than as a product to be inspected for safety and wholesomeness. In the past few years, this has only gained momentum, with much of what is written about literature, old and new, becoming a series of moral pronouncements.

The new literary moralism made early appearances in young-adult fiction, or YA. Back in 2017, the industry magazine Kirkus Reviews revoked a prestigious starred review of the YA novel American Heart after online denunciations. The chastened critic posted a revised review, now deeming it “problematic” that the author had written of a Muslim girl from the point of view of a white protagonist. Other young-adult authors have since withdrawn books from publication for the self-confessed sin of writing about marginalized characters without belonging to the same identity group. 

Perhaps it’s understandable that those in YA publishing would feel a duty of care: Children are vulnerable and unformed, and kids’ books have always been a place for didactic storytelling and safe themes. The problem is that many in the book world—often with a sincere wish to address inequality—have expanded both the notion of what is “offensive” and whose reading must be morally patrolled: It’s the adults too.

Take the reaction last year to Jeanine Cummins’ bestselling novel American Dirt, about a Mexican woman and her son who escape a cartel and find themselves among the migrants and refugees trying to reach the United States. Major publications were fulsome with praise, many suggesting that the novel’s value lay in its potential to humanize immigrants. The writer Sandra Cisneros said in a blurb, “This book is not simply the great American novel; it’s the great novel of las Americas. It’s the great world novel!” Attention only increased when Oprah Winfrey announced that she would feature it in her book club.

But a scathing blog post emerged from the writer and activist Myriam Gurba: “Pendeja, You Ain’t Steinbeck: My Bronca with Fake-Ass Social Justice Literature.” Gurba reported that simply reading a publisher’s letter for American Dirt had made her so angry her “blood became carbonated.” She went on to argue that Cummins, a white American woman with some Puerto Rican background, had no business writing about a culture and identity group to which she didn’t belong.

The critical consensus soon flipped.

Already, the novelist Lauren Groff—writing in the New York Times Book Review in January 2020—seemed uneasy about her assignment. “I was sure I was the wrong person to review this book,” Groff wrote, noting that neither she nor the author were Mexican migrants. “In contemporary literary circles, there is a serious and legitimate sensitivity to people writing about heritages that are not their own because, at its worst, this practice perpetuates the evils of colonization, stealing the stories of oppressed people for the profit of the dominant.”

Some 142 writers signed an open letter imploring Winfrey to rescind her book-club selection, citing “harm this book can and will do,” arguing that it engaged in “trauma fetishization.” Apparently, the book was no longer an urgent remedy to American xenophobia. Rather, Cummins was a cultural appropriator, and her book a collection of harmful stereotypes.

. . . .

This mindset isn’t confined to writers and critics. Increasingly, literary agents and editors are nervously evaluating the kinds of authors and stories they are comfortable with, and publishers seek to protect themselves by employing “sensitivity readers,” who scour unpublished fiction for offensive themes, characterizations or language. This moral, rather than artistic, gatekeeping means that some books never even get close enough to publication to be canceled.

The writer Bruce Wagner—a successful author of numerous novels and screenplays, such as Maps to the Starssays that his editor at Counterpoint Press objected to his latest novel due to “problematic language” regarding a protagonist who weighs over 500 pounds and refers to herself as “fat.”  Wagner chose instead to publish his book, The Marvel Universe: Origin Stories, for free online. (Counterpoint did not respond to my requests for comment.)

Link to the rest at Persuasion

Reason # (PG lost track of the number. It’s a big one) to stay away from traditional publishing and run your own show.

Real people don’t live in the same universe or speak the same language as the NYC Publicans.

There are millions of avid and intelligent readers who never pay attention to the name of the publisher before they purchase a book. (At least 90% of the time, PG doesn’t pay attention, either, even though he may have a smidge of interest due to his day job.)

Traditional publishing is a relic of a past generation. MFA professors talk about it because they still think it has a bit of glamor. People living in parts of Manhattan and within commuting distance to parts of Manhattan pay attention to it.

People who read the New York Times book reviews pay attention to traditional publishing.

(PG just checked and the New York Times has a circulation of 831,000 for its print edition. That is .025% of the current estimated US population of 330 million. That’s 25 people out of every 1,000 people in the country. And only a fraction of the subscribers to the Times read the book reviews or books sections. The digital circulation of the NYT is larger, but anyone who has been online for more than five minutes knows that the number of people who regularly read a digital publication beyond the headlines is a tiny percentage of the total number of subscribers.)

For the country at large, traditional publishing is irrelevant. What the New York Times says about anything, particularly books, is irrelevant.

Making the huge compromises necessary to get your manuscript published by a major or even bush-league traditional publisher is, in PG’s childlike, yet totally cynical opinion, a giant waste of time and effort.

Interested in discoverability? Write a good book, edit it well (get help if needed and pay for it – it doesn’t have to cost a fortune), pay for a good cover (lots of good indie designers are happy to assist), put together a good description, price it for the best royalty rate available and post it on Amazon, by far the biggest bookstore (at least selling books in English) in the world. Get a bunch of good reviews (don’t try paying for those) and a good sales rank on Amazon.

Is that easy? Not really. It takes some work and you may have to climb a learning curve on some of the items, but you, the author, are in control of the whole business. You don’t have to enter a beauty contest to snag an agent who may or may not know what she/he is doing. You don’t have to wait for the agent to (perhaps) sell your manuscript to an editor (who may or may not have a job in a year) working for a publisher (which may or may not be in business in a year), then wait and wait and wait to hear anything.

You’ll wait a lot if you go the tradpub route, then wait some more. Once your manuscript falls into the belly of the beast, you, the author, are not particularly important or interesting most of the time.

Yes, when it’s finally published (not a certain thing), you’ll have the marketing experience of the publisher behind your book (maybe) (unless an Oprah or an Obama title is in the works, in which case, your book will be #3,872 on everybody’s to-do list).

And the quality of the publisher’s marketing muscle? Think cutting-edge 1973 stuff.

People with a fragment of an ounce of marketing and sales talent can make a bazillion percent more money working almost anywhere outside of publishing. And not have to deal with idiots.

But, as usual, PG could be wrong.

Perhaps Big Publishing is about to enter a new golden age during which billions of people will be happy to pay $25 for the latest hard cover book just like they pay for a print subscription to the New York Times.

Publishing is a $26 billion industry, with self-publishing growing as a popular side hustle

From The Financial Post:

Whether it’s a piece of fiction, a collection of poetry, a graphic novel, a self-help volume, a how-to instructional, a biography or other non-fiction genre, your book deserves to be read. Going through the steps of “traditional” publishing can be expensive and time-consuming, so why not consider becoming an authorpreneur?

A new world for self-publishing

An authorpreneur is a term floating around the publishing industry that obviously mashes the words “author” and “entrepreneur” to come up with a rather accurate descriptor of a self-publisher of books. And while there used to be a stigma out that self-publishing produces a lower-quality, less-desirable product, current markets show that through the sale of e-books, print on demand, audiobooks and more, that part of the industry continues to flourish. In fact, in 2018, it grew at a rate of 40 per cent and shows no signs of slowing down—self-publishing increased for the fifth consecutive year on the print side alone.

. . . .

According to the Alliance of Independent Authors, self-published authors earn more per sale than those who work exclusively with trade publishers. The average trade-published author earns approximately 7.5 per cent of their book’s cover price, and those with agents lose a further 15 per cent of that. Self-publishing platforms like Amazon, Apple Books, and Kobo pay up to 70 per cent of each book sold to authors.

Link to the rest at The Financial Post

PG will note that The Financial Post does disclose that the OP was written by someone other than a Financial Post person and that it may receive a commission on sales via the links on the page in which the article is embedded.

The article offers a “complete” self-publish-your-book bundle for $51.99, which is a great deal because it’s “98 per cent off the regular price of $3,320”.

The article doesn’t say whether the price is payable in Canadian or American dollars. PG isn’t sure if there is an additional discount if you choose to buy the complete bundle in the lower-valued currency.

(According to the Internet which, like The Financial Post, is never wrong, 1 United States Dollar equals 1.24 Canadian Dollar) (YMMV)

One unmentioned potential benefit of purchasing the “complete” self-publish-your-book bundle is that, presumably, you qualify to purchase a “Self-Publishing is My Side-Hustle” t-shirt for 98 per cent off the regular price of $1,000.

Know thy reader

From The Bookseller:

With the levelling off of e-book sales, many have begun to wonder whether the book publishing industry will be spared the kinds of disruption experienced by other sectors of the media industries. But the digital transformation of the book publishing industry was never fundamentally about e-books anyway: e-books turned out to be just another format by which publishers could deliver their content to readers, not the game-changer that many thought (or feared) it would be. The big question that the digital revolution posed to book publishers is just as pressing today as it was a decade ago: it’s the question of how publishers understand who their ‘customers’ are, and how they relate to and interact with them. 

For most of the 500-year history of the book publishing industry, publishers understood their customers to be retailers: publishers were a B2B business, selling books to retailers, and they knew very little about the ultimate customers of their books, the readers. The digital revolution has forced publishers to think again about this model and to consider whether there might be something to be gained by becoming more reader-centric. This fundamental shift in publishers’ self-understanding is likely to be one of the most significant and enduring consequences of the digital revolution in publishing. 

But how does a publisher actually become more reader-centric? Over the last decade or so, many publishers have come to realize that one of the most effective ways to make their businesses more reader-centric is to build their own dedicated databases of readers so that they can interact directly with readers via email. Building a customer database can be a slow and laborious process, but with focus and creativity, a publisher can grow a list remarkably quickly: one senior manager I interviewed at a large US trade publisher explained that they had decided to build a customer database in a particular area of their publishing programme and, using a combination of paid ads, partnerships and sweepstakes, they succeeded in getting half a million people to sign up in the first year alone.  Having these email addresses and customer information in your own database is much more effective than relying on social media and gives you much more control, as you are not reliant on the algorithms of social media companies to determine which posts get fed through to people’s news feeds. Moreover, with emails to readers, you can get a much higher level of engagement than with many other retail goods, in part because many readers have an emotional connection with authors whose books they enjoy and they want to know more about any new books written by their favourite authors.  The benchmark for email open rates is 20%, but the open rate for emails relating to books by brand-name authors can be as high as 60%.

But it’s not just mainstream pubishers who are using digital technologies to establish direct relationships with readers: some start-ups on the margins of the publishing field have taken this much further and are pioneering new kinds of publishing that integrate reader input into their decision-making processes. One example that will be familiar to many in the publishing world are the crowdfunding publishers, Unbound in the UK and Inkshares in the US.  While many people think of crowdfunding as an innovative way of raising capital (and it is), the real genius of crowdfunding is that it is an audience-building machine. The crowdfunding model means that every new author brings a few hundred new readers into the system – their friends and family members and the people who have a particular interest in the book they’re proposing to write, and the book goes ahead only when enough readers have pledged their support for the project. Crowdfunding models like Unbound and Inkshares are creating a new kind of relationship between authors and readers in which readers are not simply the buyers of books but, rather, their co-creators. At the same time, they are building networks of engaged readers that enable them to capture customer data rather than leaving it for Amazon to hoover up. By using crowdfunding to create a system of reader curation, they are turning the traditional model of publishing on its head.

. . . .

The real opportunity that the digital revolution opens up for publishers is that, for the first time in the long history of the book, it is now possible for publishers to do something they could never do before: build direct channels of communication with readers and do it at scale. This is a central feature of the digital transformation in publishing, and those publishers that succeed in making their businesses more reader-centric, learning not just how to market more effectively to readers but how to listen to them too, are likely to be the ones that will ride the wave of the digital revolution most successfully in the years to come.

Link to the rest at The Bookseller

Leveling off of ebook sales? Email lists? Reader-centric? Crowdfunding?

PG is certain that the author of the OP (and the book shown below), an Emeritus Professor of Sociology at the University of Cambridge is an intelligent and probably likeable guy, but PG was a bit surprised while reading the OP that The Bookseller (and, presumably, its readers) will think that anything described is actually new information or insight about the book business these days.

A bit of ebook history for those who may not know or remember it:

  • While ebooks predated Amazon ebooks, for all intents and purposes, as a meaningful segment of publishing, ebooks didn’t exist until Amazon started selling ebooks and inexpensive ebook readers. (Widespread adoption of small digital screens on phones definitely helped as well.)
  • As a classic example of Clayton Christensen’s Innovator’s Dilemma, the creative executives and companies that drove the dynamism, growth and profitability of print publishing, bookstores, newspapers and magazines during the second half of the twentieth century didn’t understand how important electronic media would become and how quickly electronics, including digital electronics and digital networks, would replace print as a means of written communication to audiences large and small.
  • Jeff Bezos moved to Bellevue, Washington, rented a house with a garage and became entranced with the potential of web commerce in 1995. He decided that books were a great product to sell online because of the large worldwide demand for literature, the low unit price for books, and the huge number of titles available in print. That decision started a business that would upend the business empires of the great publishers of New York, then move on to disrupt traditional bookselling and publishing around the developed world.
  • At the same time Amazon was going public in 1997, Barnes & Noble sued the company, claiming it wasn’t the the world’s largest bookstore, but was, instead, a book broker. Bezos settled out of court and kept going.
  • Barnes & Noble CEO Leonard Riggio would have been much smarter to use the money he paid his lawyers to buy Amazon stock because $100,000 invested in Amazon on the day it went public would have been worth more than $120 million as of May 2020.
  • Sometime in the summer of 2009, executives at the highest levels of Hachette, HarperCollins, Macmillan, Penguin and Simon & Schuster started meeting secretly in the private dining room of a Manhattan restaurant to develop a strategy to prevent Amazon and other ebook retailers selling their ebooks at a discount from list price.
  • At the time, these five publishers were producing 48% of the ebooks sold in the United States.
  • In December, 2009, Apple’s senior VP of Internet Software and Services contacted these New York publishers to set up secret meetings for the purpose of discussing ebook pricing.
  • Apple planned to unveil the iPad on January 27, 2010, and start shipping iPads in April. As part of the launch, Apple wanted to announce its new iBookstore that would include ebooks from the major publishers.
  • The Apple VP told the five publishers that Apple would sell the majority of e-books for prices between $9.99 and $14.99, with new releases being $12.99 to $14.99, substantially more than Amazon was charging.
  • Apple planned to use the same “agency” model which it used in its App Store for distribution of e-books. Apple would be a sales agent and the Publishers would control the price of their e-books in the iBookstore. Publishers would pay Apple a 30% commission on each sale.
  • Apple didn’t want Amazon to be able to sell ebooks at a lower price. The agreement between Apple and each of the big publishers would include a so-called “most-favored-nation” or “MFN” clause which allowed for Apple to sell e-book at its competitors’ lowest price. If the big publishers allowed Amazon to discount prices, Apple could discount them an equal amount and take its 30% commission from that price.
  • The Big Publishers concluded that, if Amazon didn’t play ball, their ebook customers would simply buy iPads and buy their ebooks at the iBookstore. Finally, there was a powerful enough tech company to take on Amazon in the ebook game.
  • On the day of the iPad launch and the announcement of the iBookstore, including an announcement of Apple’s ebook pricing, a Wall Street Journal reporter asked Apple CEO Steve Jobs why people would pay $14.99 for a book in the iBookstore when they could purchase it for $9.99 from Amazon. Jobs replied that “The price will be the same… Publishers are actually withholding their books from Amazon because they are not happy.”
  • This public statement expressed the terms of the agreement. The big publishers, acting in concert, would jointly force Amazon to increase its e-book prices with the threat to cut off Amazon’s ebook supply. If Amazon refused to increase prices, Apple would be the only place to buy ebooks from the major publishers that controlled most of the book marked. If Amazon knuckled under and raised its prices, Apple would face no price competition.
  • The United States Justice Department and 31 states filed suit against Apple and the five conspiring publishers for violating longstanding US antitrust laws. Three of the publishers settled the claims on the date the suit was filed, admitting they had violated the law. The other two publishers settled the case prior to trial, also admitting wrongdoing.
  • News reports stated that the publishing executives had not consulted their own attorneys about whether their actions were legal or not. (PG notes that any law student who had completed more than three weeks of a one-semester law school antitrust course would have known that this scheme was a clear-cut violation of the law. No legal gray areas available for this hot mess.)
  • After a trial, Apple was found to have wrongfully violated US antitrust laws. Apple appealed the decision as far as it could go and lost. Apple was forced to pay $450 million in damages for its wrongful actions.

And the OP describes ebooks as “the wave of digital revolution” as if this is new information.

PG believes that no one would dispute that Amazon is by far the largest outlet for independently-published ebooks anywhere in the world. Amazon does not break out indie ebook sales in its own accounting reports.

Veteran publishing consultant, Mike Shatzkin, estimated that, between 2011 and 2013, self-published books grew from nothing to almost 30% of the book units sold in the US. This growth coincided with a period during which ebook sales also increased rapidly.

The Alliance of Independent Authors estimated that in 2016, in the US, fewer than 1200 trade-published authors who debuted in the last ten years earned $25,000 a year or more, compared to over 1,600 indie authors who earned $25,000 per year or more.

In 2020, ALLi reported that 8% its members had sold more than 50,000 books in the prior two years.

An Enders Analysis in 2016 found that 40% of the top-selling ebooks on Amazon were self-published.

PG won’t say the ebook and indie revolutions are over, but will say that the trends of the last ten years have undeniably been moving towards more ebooks and more money for indie authors. Any industry statistics that limit themselves to ebooks sold by traditional publishers are missing the majority of the overall market.

PG further suggests that for most authors, indie or traditionally-published, a dozen legitimate positive reviews on Amazon are worth more than a signing at your local Barnes & Noble.

The author of the OP is promoting a book he recently published.

Make a Living at Writing?

From J.P. Kenna:

There’s money to be made in writing fiction. But not necessarily by those doing the actual writing. As the number of books being churned out in this age of self-publishing has increased astronomically, the odds of making a living wage as a writer have contracted, along with the likelihood of being published in the traditional manner–unless you’re a celebrity; or already a best-selling author.

I’m neither. I’m also retired and on fixed income, allowing for a modicum of spare time but little disposable income. In years leading up to retirement I began seriously writing–at times, compulsively. As a lover of American history and fiction, it was a natural to combine the two. Though no fan of digital technology, I couldn’t deny that the advent of the word processor and cheap laptop computer have been a boon to writing. But then there are the unintended consequence. Not the least of which is, too many people are writing and not enough are reading.

Blissfully unaware that I was merely adding a to a growing surplus of what was now becoming a commodity called “content,” I held onto the hope of some discerning eye in the publishing industry running across my work, seeing something of promise in it, and offering to publish it as a finished book. Isn’t this the dream of everyone who picks up pad and pen, then typewriter or laptop, thinking they have a story–or stories–to tell?

Until the rise of the 21st Century, standard procedure was you submit your work to an agent, who then markets it to a publishing house, which then–it they like it–will agree to edit the work and print it and market it. The beauty of this system is the agent and the publisher, rather than charge the writer upfront for these services, will take a vested interest in the success of the work. The book sells, the publisher profits. While not perfect, this system mostly worked for the benefit of those involved, including the general public as readers. As for the writers, they didn’t need to spend hundreds, or likely thousands, of dollars they didn’t have on support services, in order to see their book in print.

Those of us who put off serious writing until the new millennium failed to take into account that the publishing industry had been evolving into a conglomerate of fewer and fewer companies, now down to four. While publishing had always existed to make a profit, the increasing “corporatization” prioritizes profits for stockholders over all other values, including the enlightened practice of taking a chance on unknown writers, who just might turn out a best-seller or two in the future. In keeping with the corporate ethos rising since the 1980s, publishing books that might just be moderately profitable as opposed to “mega-sellers” has been another casualty of this shift in priorities.

So is the transformation of “big publishing” really a loss? There are many who see the rise of self-publishing, aided by such developments as print-on-demand, along with marketing opportunities on social media, as a path of true progress, away from the “legacy” publishing establishment that’s grown hidebound, resistant to new technology; while retaining the lion’s share of royalties. All of which are largely true. Advocates point to the rise of services that have emerged with the growth in self-publishing. And there are self-published authors getting noticed. And even making money.

What doesn’t seem to get as much mention is the number of self-published writers who don’t get noticed, who don’t sell enough books to even begin to cover the costs of getting them into print. Often overlooked is that the vast majority of successful self-published writers can trace their initial recognition to having been traditionally published.

As the carrot of reward enticingly dangles on the end of the stick ahead of the self-published writer, for many, likely most, the stick can grow longer. Since the transformation of publishing, the average monetary return to authors has been shrinking. Those making money are more likely the providers of services, such as content editing, proof reading, layout, cover design and last–but not least–marketing. These services don’t come cheap. Nor should they. Certainly the providers of quality services, from layout and editing to marketing, deserve fair compensation. But when added up, they can put the carrot out of reach for those who struggle to afford it. And these are the very services once provided by publishing companies, giving the publisher a financial stake in the success of the book. This essential partnership is lost when–as has become the norm–the writer at his or her own cost must hire out the services, whereupon the provider gets paid whether or not the book succeeds or flops.

Link to the rest at Blue Collar Author Blog

Some time ago, PG posted an item inviting visitors to TPV who had a blog post they thought might be of interest to others visiting TPV to send him a link.

PG mentioned that weekends tend to be times when he has more difficulty finding items of interest to TPV visitors than during the workweek.

J.P., the author of the OP, took PG up on his suggestion and sent him a link to a blog post.

While PG is certain that J.P. was already famous before he sent PG a link, perhaps J.P. is a smidge more famous now.

If anyone else would like a teeny bit more fame, feel free to send PG links to items you think might be of interest to the world of TPV via the Contact PG link at the top of the blog. You won’t be deemed pretentious if you send links so something you have written yourself. (PG would prefer not to receive links to something you have plagiarized yourself, however.)

You can, of course, send suggestions at any time, but after mid-day on Friday plus all day on Saturday and Sunday are the times when traditional publishing is especially somnolent (perhaps everyone is working on his/her/their stupid statements for the coming work week) and PG’s other sources of interesting material also slow down, so feel especially free to send him something then.

Nine Months of Covid

From Women Writers, Women’s Books:

The last nine months have felt like one long never-ending sentence without commas or periods. One that has been filled with tumultuous waves of emotions, varying levels of anxiety, unexpected outbreaks of gut-wrenching sobs, as well as moments of rueful hilarity, all because of a pandemic that has upended our lives, taking with it an unfathomable number of them. And yet, here I am writing about a book that would most likely have ended up in my computer’s “drawer” if it were not for COVID.

I am one of the lucky ones. I have a roof over my head. Food in the fridge. And can work from home. I am also turning 83 and have COPD. In other words, from March until late June, I wouldn’t venture out. Couldn’t venture out for fear of being infected. And even when from my window, I could finally see more and more people donning masks, I walked outside with trepidation.

Like many of us, during the first month of the lockdown, I maniacally washed, or alcohol wiped everything that came from Amazon and Instacart. I learned how to shop for the week instead of for a day or two—something that takes extraordinary planning for a family, but especially for someone like me who lives alone.

I talked with friends on FaceTime. Read in fits and starts—my concentration sorely lacking. And I watched Cuomo on TV. The book of short stories about friendships that I had started late in 2018 and finished, or so I thought, in February 2020 I put to the side. While I’d shared some of the stories with friends, even had asked a friend to read through for typos, from the outset I’d had low expectations of finding an agent or publisher. No matter that when I told a writer friend I’d begun working on a story about a particular failed friendship, she suggested I write others. “Would make a great book,” she said. “Friendships are hot right now.”

I am not someone who writes daily. I write when I have something that needs to get out of my system, or when I’ve set a project for myself. My friend’s comment created that project. I would write about the various friendships I’d had—disguised of course—and some I could only imagine. And while, as I wrote, a part of me hoped that miraculously an agent would sweep the pages up into loving arms, I knew better. Knew what it would take to get a book of short stories onto bookshelves.

. . . .

The original story got tossed. Another went from 25 pages to three. I changed endings, deepened characters, even changed the name of the book. This went on until the end of August when I made the decision to self-publish. At 83, with COVID possibly around the corner, time was not on my side. Within a week I had signed a contract and continued my editing frenzy until finally,  in November I pressed “send” and the collection was no longer in my hands.  

Link to the rest at Women Writers, Women’s Books

The author’s book is titled What Would I Do Without You?: A collection of short stories about friendships

Unfortunately, although the paperback version of the book was published November 10, 2020, PG wasn’t able to find an ebook version on Amazon.

It appears that the author of the OP published through BookLocker, an assisted-publishing organization with which PG was not previously acquainted.

After a bit of grazing through the BookLocker website, PG did discover something he could agree with in a section of the website titled, Reasons Not to Use Us:

4.) We, unfortunately, don’t work with jerks. If you are a jerk, you’d be better served by one of our competitors. We prefer to work with professional individuals…who have manners.

Part of PG’s business philosophy is not phrased so well as BookLocker’s is, but does have the virtue of being shorter:

Don’t work with jerks.

Whenever PG has knowingly or inadvertently violated this policy, he has come to regret it, regardless of the amount of remuneration he has received for his services.

The problem is that, regardless of what PG’s spidey sense tells him about an individual, he has sometimes made a mistake and has ended up working with jerks.

He has concluded that a reasonable analogy can be made between jerks and fools per an old saying, sometimes described as Murphy’s Second Corollary:

It is impossible to make anything foolproof because fools are so ingenious.

Draft2Digital Review

From Reedsy Blog:

The gold standard for self-publishing aggregators, Draft2Digital distinguishes itself with excellent customer service and a user-friendly interface. They’re the best way to sell your book with dozens of retailers without tearing your hair out.

Pros:

  • Quick to set-up and publish a book
  • Robust book conversion tool
  • Great customer service
  • Universal Book Link helps readers buy your book on their retailer of choice.

Cons:

  • Limited reach outside English-speaking countries
  • Not suitable for Amazon publishing

. . . .

While not the first epublishing aggregator on the market, Draft2Digital (D2D) has become Indie Publishing’s preferred method for “wide” distribution since it launched in 2012. 

How does Draft2Digital work?

Draft2Digital’s service offers a simple way to directly sell ebooks with (almost) every major retailer. Instead of creating separate accounts with Amazon, Kobo, Apple Books, etc., you can:

  • Set up a single Draft2Digital account; 
  • Upload your manuscript files; 
  • Let D2D publish your ebook to over a dozen of the biggest retailers; and
  • Manage your pricing and payments through your D2D dashboard

This approach to ‘wide’ distribution can save authors hours of work every week by taking the task of monitoring and managing multiple accounts off their hands. This leaves you more time to run ads, write your next book, or do your laundry (whichever’s more important on any given day).

How much does D2D cost?

In place of any upfront fees, Draft2Digital takes 15% of net royalties in exchange for managing your retailers and handling your payments. This means, for example, if you sell an ebook on Amazon for $4.99

  • Amazon’s Royalty is 30% ($1.497)
    • Net royalty is $3.493
  • Draft2Digital takes 15% ($0.524)
    • Author’s royalty is ($2.969)

Draft2Digital’s pricing model is reassuringly reliant on authors actually selling books. Unlike a few of their competitors, they’re incentivized to help you maximize your sales.

Link to the rest at Reedsy Blog

The Kickstarted Game Changer

From Kristine Kathryn Rus ch:

For decades publishing has been a stagnated industry, relying on fifty- and sixty-year-old methods to sell books. Most of the practices within the industry are also at least fifty or sixty years old. Sure, the industry has made some modifications to accommodate innovation, like the ebook, but those are minor tweaks.

Those tweaks do not take into account the actual changes in the world. What traditional book publishers could do for writers in the mid-twentieth century was vast and impressive. What traditional book publishers can do for writers now is pretty minimal, and getting more so, thanks to the damn virus.

If you’ll notice, most of the repeat New York Times bestsellers (even at the small numbers that it takes to hit the list) have been around for at least ten years. And that includes Brandon Sanderson.

Sanderson provoked this mini-series of blog posts when he launched a Kickstarter this month, and it flew past a million dollars within a day. This is important for a variety of reasons, a handful of which I explored in the previous post.

The real reason this large Kickstarter is important is that, if we writers do this right, the Kickstarter is the game changer that the industry needs.

I’ve long had the sense that the publishing industry is moving at lightspeed—away from traditional publishers. If there’s an innovation, it comes from the indie (self) publishing side.

. . . .

The opening line of this very silly sales pitch from a promotion company is this:

Nowadays, some traditional publishers won’t even consider signing an author who has less than 10,000 email subscribers. Even indie authors see a big jump in sales after they build an email subscriber base…

Even indie authors? Even indie authors? This technique for building sales came from indie authors. They’ve refined the email marketing list long past what this particular article proposes. The things it espouses were hot in the mid-teens, and aren’t effective now.

Except, maybe, to get a traditional publishing deal, which pays increasingly less money for scooping up most of the copyright. That copyright detail will become important in the third and final installment of this miniseries.

Traditional publishing is floundering. Its overhead is top-heavy, it’s still locked in expensive production contracts, it’s also paying New York rents, which, as of January of this year, had the second highest rental prices in the nation (only San Francisco cost more).

I’m sure a round of layoffs is coming in traditional publishing which follows the last-hired-first-fired method of getting rid of people. Which means that the innovators—the young people—will disappear.

And now this.

Brandon’s Kickstarter should send waves of fear through traditional publishing for a variety of reasons.

1…The monetary size of the Kickstarter. As of this writing, the Kickstarter has earned well over 5 million dollars. It will cost money to fulfill the Kickstarter, not just for the items promised, shipping, and the salary of the staffers who will handle fulfillment (or the cost of a fulfillment service).

But for the sake of argument, let’s say that this Kickstarter finishes at 8 million dollars (which is what Dean is estimating, based on the way the Kickstarter is going in the middle here). Let’s use super huge fulfillment expenses and say that it will cost half of the earnings to produce and ship the rewards. (It will cost significantly less, but go with me here.)

That still means this Kickstarter will clear 4 million dollars.

In today’s market, no publisher can pay 4 million dollars for a book advance. Even if some publisher did manage to cough up that kind of money, Brandon wouldn’t get it all at once. He’d get it, probably in 5 (or more) installments—signing, turn-in, copy-edit, page proof, hardcover publication and paperback publication.

The most would be on signing—maybe a million right there or maybe not because again, I can’t see a publisher shelling out that kind of cash in 2020. The rest would be split in payments under $500,000, with at least 15% taken for the agent.

All in all, it would take three years to get the four million dollars for the book—if the publisher moved at lightspeed. Even then Brandon wouldn’t get the full 4 million. He would get 3.4 million, with $600,000 (minimum) going to his agent.

With this Kickstarter, he’ll get the full 4 million sometime in August. (This assumes that Kickstarter’s 5% fee is in the 4 million I set aside for expenses.)

Here’s the kicker though: This Kickstarter is for a single license—a leather-bound hardcover with beautiful interior art. Not for paperback rights or standard hardcover rights or ebook rights. Not for audio or anything that you might find in a standard traditional contract.

Just one little slice of the copyright.

In other words, the fans on Kickstarter are paying for just one version of a book many of them might have already read. There are still other licenses out there that could be monetized should an author (not Brandon) want to do this.

So if Brandon can clear 4 million on one slice of the copyright pie, think what would happen if he decided to Kickstart his next hardcover novel. Then Kickstart the paperback. And Kickstart the audio book.

Not all of them would earn 4 million, but that doesn’t matter. If he makes $500,000 on each of those Kickstarters, he would add another 1.5 million to his Kickstarter total (9.5 million) and since we’re saying it would cost half to fulfill, that’s another $750,000 up front, not counting the money that would come in from the ebook (which I haven’t listed here) or the sales to the general public.

Instead of 3.4 million over three years on a book, he’d clear 4.75 million in about a year (or less).

2….The backer size of the Kickstarter. As of this writing, over 19,000 people have backed Brandon’s Kickstarter. This is a tiny percentage of his fan base—and that’s a good thing.

Not everyone who reads books goes to Kickstarter. Not everyone who reads Brandon’s books buys them. (They’re also in libraries and other such places). I couldn’t quickly find the sales figures for Brandon’s solo books. (We can’t count the Wheel of Time books he completed for Robert Jordan.) But I do know that Brandon’s sales are in the millions of copies.

With that measure, 19,000 backers is a mere drop in the potential bucket.

Imagine if Brandon self-published all of his books, not just a handful of them. His fan base is not going to diminish. It is going to grow or at least remain the same.

Link to the rest at Kristine Kathryn Rusch

Here’s a link to Kris Rusch’s books. If you like the thoughts Kris shares, you can show your appreciation by checking out her books.

How to Become a Self-Published Author

From Stage32.com:

It was back in 2010 when I was first approached about publishing a novel. I was a lighter shade of Latina actress who had met the frustration of waiting for casting directors and agents to notice me, and see me as Latina enough…so I decided to write my own stage play. It was my autobiographical, coming of age story, that would show people once and for all who I was, instead of waiting for them to see and find a place for me. My one-woman stage play (Brownsville Bred) took the festival circuit by storm and within one year I was performing it Off-Broadway and to critical acclaim.

The book packager, who shall remain nameless, was absolutely wonderful, experienced and best of all she loved my story and believed in me as a writer.

. . . .

My book packager sat me down and told me how it “Usually” worked. It seemed that “usually” they (the packager or publisher) hire a GHOST WRITER–someone who comes in, listens to your story, and reads your work, before diving in to write their version of your story. The ghostwriter never gets credited as the Author, but they are still the person who is actually writing the book.

“Hold up…wait a minute,” I said. “I am a writer!” But it wasn’t that easy. I had to prove that I could write in prose and that I did. One sample chapter later and I proved to her (and to myself) that I was able to write prose just as well as I wrote for the stage. I was handed the STANDARD publishing contract–which is…to put it delicately…HORRIBLE. For the most part, it says you get about twenty-five cents per book, and you give up your rights to the book, TV, and Film.

As a writer/filmmaker, the cents didn’t matter to me nearly as much as the TV and film rights did, and luckily for me, she quickly took it out of our contract. So we had the deal and now it was time to write the book, right? Kind of. I learned the lesson that most book publishers only want a package that would include an intro, an About The Author page, and about three or four sample chapters–this because anyone who picks it up will want a hand on the direction they want it to take.

Long story short, within three months we had a great package, sample chapters, and people willing to bring it into their publishing house pitch meetings. I was never in on those meetings so I can’t tell you exactly how those went. But I can tell you that my packager described these folks as “LOVING” the materials. I even got the words, “No one could love it more than her”…but still, it was rejected by the ultimate decision-makers. That process repeated a few times and before long, my one-year agreement with my packager was up.

. . . .

It was also around the same time that the publishing world was changing. Kindle was managing to do to the book publishing world what Napster had done to the record industry. The world was changing and my story, about a Puerto Rican girl growing up in the welfare projects of Brownsville Brooklyn, proved “too dark” for the YA readers they had in mind for it.

With that, I took the experience and told myself that it had veered my journey away from the on-screen journey that I had hoped for the story. But I am a firm believer in “everything happens for a reason…moreover a GOOD reason and it’s up to us to find that reason.”

Fast forward a few years later, I was in the thick of filmmaking. I had a few episodes of a web series that I’d written, produced, and directed and found filmmaking to be my greatest passion. I knew I wanted to make my stage play into a feature film. It was then that I sought the advice of a great feature film director, Rashaad Ernesto Green, who told me that if I wanted to direct a film I should, “Make short films”.

. . . .

It was while at the Official Latino Film Festival in late 2019 that I received the next big great piece of advice. During a panel of professional writers–people who had all of the experience of being in a pitch room, I asked, “what is the number one thing that gets projects sold?” The answer sent bursts of colors through my brain– “I.P.”–Intellectual Property. Intellectual Property like a book lends any story credibility.

The writer went on to say that he had an idea for an alien series, and so he wrote and self- published a graphic novel to support the idea. When asked where the story came from, he simply took out the book and said, “this graphic novel”.

. . . .

I dug up all of the chapters I’d written and spent the next two days immersed in what I had and figuring out what was missing. I looked to my stage play and then to my new screenplay’s beat sheet. I added some parts that would reinforce the decisions I had made for the screenplay version. Within a week I had my first manuscript.

. . . .

My eyes were strained from reading, and so I uploaded my manuscript into Speechify and listened to it read back to me over and over again as I noted the errors to correct.

I googled everything I could about self-publishing…and it wasn’t the first time I’d done that but 2019 proved to be the year when technology would finally catch up to me, without the demand of financial investment. It took me a few weeks to consume the self-help videos and seminars made available through KDP Amazon. Yes, people, we have to thank Jeff Bezos on this one.

. . . .

After you’ve gotten through the editor’s changes you should get BETA Readers. These can be hired or just ask people who you know are avid readers if they’d give you feedback on the manuscript. I recommend creating a questionnaire specific to your book.

It should have questions like:

  • “What was your favorite part?
  • What confused you?
  • What would you tell someone about this book?
  • Who would you want to read this book?
  • Did you feel that anything was missing?

In my case, I had added a whole end chapter to my book, after a friend who had seen the play, told me that she very much missed the end of the play where I gave a recap of the real people the book was based on and shared where they are today. Now in retrospect, I can report that, at my book-club readings, I am often asked to read that very chapter aloud.

Link to the rest at Stage32.com and thanks to Judith for the tip.

PG will note that, just like literary agents, book packagers are not licensed and are not subject to any effective regulation. A high school dropout on drugs can promote her/himself as a book packager or literary agent.

One difference between the two is that the literary agent typically doesn’t get paid until you receive some money from your book (although there are those agents who charge “reading fees” for scanning your ms.).

Ebook Formatting with a Mac

One of PG’s relatives (on Mrs. PG’s side of the family, so he’s not dodgy) called PG to ask about formatting an ebook for the first time.

PG knew about Apple Pages, but not much else.

Any Mac folks who have had a good experience with a different approach to writing on a Mac, then self-publishing?

How to Publish an Ebook: A 9-Step Guide for Success

From Reedsy Blog:

Ten years ago, a writer aiming for publication probably looked forward to picking up a hard copy of their book for the first time. These days, however, the book trade has changed quite a bit — and publishing dreams have changed with it. Instead of fantasizing about glossy hardcovers, writers might well picture themselves setting their ebooks live and watching as the sales come rolling in.

In January of 2020 alone, US readers spent a collective $75 million on ebooks, and that was for traditionally published titles alone — add in indie ebooks, and you’re likely to see that figure double. Then, throw in social distancing to rocket up demand even further. In short, ebook publishing shows no signs of slowing down. Want to take advantage of the boom? This post will walk you through how to publish an ebook in 9 simple steps.

Step 1: Make sure your work is spotless

Readers might be hungrier for ebooks than ever before, but their appetites aren’t indiscriminate. If you want to entice them into reading your work, you’ll have to serve up something mouthwatering — prose that’s good down to the last drop.

Okay, enough culinary metaphors. The point is, whether you’re self-publishing a fantasy novel or an actual cookbook, quality matters. Before you even think about publishing your ebook, you’ll want to make sure there’s not a comma out of place.

A word of warning here: self-publishing an ebook is fast — so fast it can be dangerous. An impatient writer can turn a draft into a bona fide ebook in under an hour and see it go up for sale the next day. This greased-lightning pace is exactly why so many indie authors prefer digital releases. But the ease and convenience of ebook publishing has a downside: it’s all too easy to send your work out into the world before it’s ready.

Don’t jump the gun and publish as soon as you type out the last sentence, or even as soon as you finish a thorough round of edits. Instead, put your manuscript away for a while, so you can come back refreshed enough to spot mistakes you missed on the last pass. Then bring in another pair of eyes — ideally, a trained editor who will leave your manuscript spotless.

. . . .

Step 2: Package your ebook with the perfect cover

Once you’ve fine-tuned the text of your ebook, it’s time to package it with an equally polished cover.

Remember, your cover is your ebook’s first and best marketing asset. It should look great in ads, draw likes on social media, and, above all, grab attention on crowded online marketplaces. Whether you attempt to DIY or hand a professional designer the reins (which is what we recommend), it’s important to use cover art that does your book justice. Phoning it in with a hastily produced, clip art-heavy image would be like shoving a priceless gem into a burlap sack.

. . . .

If you want a deep dive into the world of book cover design in general, we’ve got a post that covers it (pun absolutely intended). But here’s one crucial, ebook-specific consideration to keep in mind. Unlike a print cover in brick and mortar bookstores, your cover needs to look good — and make sense — at full scale and in miniature.

Ebook publishing platforms require you to upload large, high-resolution JPG images for your cover. If you outsource your cover art to a professional, your designer will send you an image of appropriate size and quality. But if you’re going it alone, consult this guide to make sure your homemade image has the right dimensions.

Now, your cover image may be big, but on retail platforms like the Amazon Kindle Store, potential buyers will first encounter it as a tiny thumbnail — often no more than 100 px wide. This fateful glimpse can turn a virtual window-shopper into a devoted new fan.

A cover that’s gorgeous at full scale but a meaningless blur in miniature won’t do you any favors in the sales department — so make sure you invest in art that shines at any size.

Link to the rest at Reedsy Blog

IngramSpark introduces new quality rules for self-published authors

From The New Publishing Standard:

Intent on preserving its reputation for quality, IngramSpark, the print-on-demand arm of Ingram that targets self-published authors, sent out notice today that new rules would come into play in April 27, and that some authors may find their titles removed from sale.

IngramSpark is taking a necessary stand to uphold the integrity of and reduce bias against independently published works. To align with our industry’s needs for content integrity, we will actively remove print content from our catalog that does harm to buyers and affects the reputations of our publishers and retail and library partners.

Among the offending products that were previously tolerated will be:

  • Summaries, workbooks, abbreviations, insights, or similar type content without permission from the original author.
  • Books containing blank pages exceeding ten percent, notepads, scratchpads, journals, or similar type content.
  • Books or content that mirror/mimic popular titles, including without limiting, similar covers, cover design, title, author names, or similar type content.
  • Books that are misleading or likely to cause confusion by the buyer, including without limiting, inaccurate descriptions and cover art.
  • Books listed at prices not reflective of the book’s market value.
  • Books scanned from original versions where all or parts contain illegible content to the detriment of the buyer.

Link to the rest at The New Publishing Standard

These self-published authors are actually making a living. Here’s how.

From Mashable:

If you google the words “self-publishing stigma,” you’ll find enough material to fill a book.

The search results for this phrase are packed with articles and blogs, many of which pose similar questions: Where does the stigma around self-published fiction come from? Is it justified? And as the years roll by, is it finally starting to fade?

While questions over writers’ and publishers’ attitudes to this type of fiction may be up for discussion, though, one thing seems pretty clear: A whole lot of people read self-published books.

And a whole lot of writers are making money from selling them.

According to Amazon’s 2019 review of its Kindle sales, there are now thousands of self-published authors taking home royalties of over $50,000, while more than a thousand hit six-figure salaries from their book sales last year.

So who are the authors earning a living from self-publishing, and how have they managed it?

. . . .

Lawyer-turned-writer L.J. Ross told Mashable that self-publishing is the best decision she’s ever made — and when you look at the mind-boggling levels of success she’s achieved, that statement makes a lot of sense.

Since publishing her debut novel, Holy Island, on Amazon’s Kindle Direct Publishing platform (KDP) in 2015, Ross has gone on to publish a whopping 19 novels — and sell a total of around 4.5 million copies. She hit the top of Amazon’s Kindle eBooks best seller list seven times last year (a record), and has now set up her own print label in order to supply paperbacks to UK retailers.

“Looking back, I think Holy Island represented a ‘perfect storm,'” Ross said. “The cover was bright and eye-catching, featuring a strong landscape which, at the time, was a little more unusual for a crime fiction novel. The story taps into my own predilections for old-fashioned, closed room murder mysteries, but with a modern twist. It’s unusual, because it straddles two genres: romantic suspense, and crime fiction.”

Ross said that everybody advised her against mixing those genres, and told her it would never work. But she pushed ahead anyway.

“The benefit of remaining independent is that you can take your own creative and business decisions, so I chose to leave them both in because I preferred the story,” Ross added. “As it happened, readers did too, and I was very fortunate to capture a kind, loyal readership, some of whom tended towards crime fiction and some of whom tended towards romantic suspense, but all of whom found a middle ground in Holy Island.”

. . . .

Holy Island ended up being the first in a series of novels to revolve around the character Detective Chief Inspector Ryan. Ross said it’s easier for books to “cross-fertilise” on Amazon KDP if you have a series, because of the way the platform signposts an author’s other books. If a reader enjoys one, it’s very easy for them to find the next.

Recurring characters aren’t Ross’ only tool, either. She keeps marketing simple, making her books’ descriptions minimal and limiting quotes from other writers, so that potential purchasers never stray too far from the “buy” button. She has a mailing list, which enables her to market directly to readers. And she only contacts subscribers when she has news of an upcoming release.

However you choose to market, I think it’s important to let readers know a little about yourself, so they can feel connected with the author and understand more about the person behind the stories they enjoy,” Ross added.

Despite some approaches from traditional publishers, Ross has yet to be tempted. With the exception of audiobooks and some foreign rights (rights to publish in other countries outside the UK), which she says she publishes along more traditional lines, Ross is happy to remain within the self-publishing sphere.

“In my case, it’s been a very sustainable means of income and has allowed me to work as a full-time author from the beginning,” she explained. “However, from speaking to and hearing from many other independent authors, I know that there are thousands of people out there who have been able to supplement their day job with a very healthy income, or work part-time as an author, alongside all of the other full-time indie authors who have been able to give up the day job. 

“In short, it’s been a liberating, life-changing experience for many writers.”

Link to the rest at Mashable

The Authors Guild Rehashes Bogus Author Income Survey as a “New” Report

From The Digital Reader:

Earlier this week The Publishers Authors Guild released a report that “explores the factors leading to the decline in the writing profession. Alas, this report is based on the flawed survey that I debunked last January, making it the epitome of the “garbage in, garbage out” error.

As I reported last year:

The Authors Guild report in particular is flawed because it is based on a self-selected survey group where self-published authors are under-represented and retirement age traditionally authors are over-represented.

And as Len Epps pointed out in the comment of that post, 18% of the survey respondents didn’t make any income from their writing in the previous year. This would arguably disqualify them from being “full-time authors” (I would call them retired, actually).

. . . .

If nothing else, its very mindset is flawed. Like we’ve seen in other The Authors Guild statements on this topic, this report focused on the income of published authors and conveniently overlooks the fact that before the internet, 99% of authors made nothing from the sale of their books because they could not get published in the first place.

Of the remaining 1%, maybe one in a hundred could make a living at it.

What The Authors Guild wants you to do is focus on the 0.01% so they can wring their hands over the poor, beleaguered authors. I am not sure what The Authors Guild gains by pushing this narrative, but it is as false as TAG’s claim that piracy is a major problem (when in fact their data shows the opposite is true).

What I do know was that author income as an aggregate is up. The 99.99% are making more than ever before by bypassing publishers entirely and going directly to market. Thanks to Amazon setting the standard, most ebook retailers pay better royalties than publishers ever did (another detail that The Authors Guild hoped you would overlook).

Link to the rest at The Digital Reader

As usual, Nate is on target. Amazon permanently upset the publishing applecart when it treated self-published books in the same way it treated books from traditional publishers. Amazon also recognized the superior profit potential for ebooks over their printed ancestors.

Big Publishing made precisely the wrong decisions at every stage of the upheaval in the book business. It sacrificed billions of dollars trying to prop up the ancient way of doing things – printed books to wholesalers to bookstores then back to wholesalers if they didn’t sell then to the pulp mills to be recycled (maybe), costing money, burning carbon and polluting the atmosphere at every step.

When faced with a choice between Jeff Bezos (one of the most brilliant merchandising and sales minds of the last 30 years) and Amazon or Leonard Riggio (a very long distance from being in the Bezos class) and Barnes & Noble, Big Publishing chose the old guys and the old ways. The Manhattan geniuses then proceeded to break the law in a way that any law student could tell them was obviously illegal to force Amazon to sell books for higher prices (so people would buy fewer books, which any economics or MBA student could tell them would happen).

And now Big Publishing and its wheezing enablers have staked their futures on promulgating the idea that, in 2020 and moving forward, talented authors can build better careers and make more money by signing terrible life-long publishing agreements which give the same publishers who have made so many stupid decisions the right to control everything about how the author’s books are produced, promoted, priced and sold.

This strategy requires that nobody in the Manhattan mafia ever (no never) acknowledge that more and more indie authors, including authors who used to be traditionally-published, are making more and more money self-publishing their books than they ever could while giving most of the money people pay for their books to those who didn’t write them.

Simply put, every year, more and more talented writers are enjoying monthly checks from Amazon and have either avoided working with traditional publishers entirely or regard their experience in doing so as their single worst business decision.

2020 Publishing Vision Forward

From The Book Designer:

Welcome to the new world of publishing where the “self-published” author isn’t scorned … unless the book looks crappy—it’s the first essential bridge to cross. Where the book looks professionally created, and not botched on the layout, cover design, and editing. Where it has had an editor work with grammar, spelling, punctuation and overall structure of the storyline if fiction.

With the Internet and today’s technology, traditional publishers have been turned on their heads, shaken up, forced into unheard of mergers and marriages, and vanity presses have morphed into new critters. And the new, new breed of small press, independent publishers have scooped up many of the old “self-publishers” and created an amazing, and quite wonderful, new world for the serious author to choose and step into.

Are there companies that should be spit at? Absolutely … and they are breeding because of the demand that had exploded over the last decade. The publishing predators are alive and well, unfortunately.

And … drumroll … more books are being bought from the indies, small presses, hybrids, and “self” worlds than via the traditional publishing offerings. This is hot news for authors. A new breed of entrepreneurs has arrived … the author-preneur—authors who get that this is a business and needs to be treated as one whose products are BOOKS and any “off” products that are seeded. That they are the CMO—the chief marketing officer of any “products” that are produced. Books.

. . . .

There are four key reasons why you should consider publishing on your own:

  • quality
  • control
  • time
  • money

Link to the rest at The Book Designer

Indie Means Indie

From Fiction Notes:

Smashwords’ Mark Coker is sounding the alarm about indie publishers (those who write and publish their own works—let’s get the terminology right–it’s INDIE publishers, not the deprecating “self-published”) relying too much on Amazon.

I agree with Coker.

Two and half years ago, I started advertising on Amazon’s AMS platform. It doubled my sales. But then, everyone else found the platform and the cost of advertising has sky-rocketed. I get it. There’s competition, as there should be. But what I don’t get is that the platform is confusing, frustrating, and most of all, inconsistent. You may advertise using Keyword A and get fantastic results. If you try to duplicate that with a similar title, say the second in a series, however, you’ll probably get zilch. Nothing. Zero. Zip. Nada. There’s no consistency. That’s a simple example, but the inconsistency extends throughout the platform.

I’ve been a member of a Facebook group devoted to figuring out Amazon’s algorithms and advertising policies for about those same two and a half years. In that time, no one can consistently figure out, well, anything. Theories abound. I’ve tried them all.

. . . .

So. A couple weeks ago, I set a bid at a high level of $0.83. Except, I accidentally set it at $83.00 instead. Fortunately, I monitor the ads closely and caught it within 24 hours. Here’s the thing: it sold books. The ad served, and there were sales. Of course, at the high bid (it charged me about $4-5/bid), I wasn’t profitable. But everything else was right on. I know my audience; they like my book; the keywords were solid; and, conversion rates were solid which means the cover/description were doing their job. It’s just that Amazon won’t serve my ads without crazy-high pricing. For whatever reason, Amazon’s algorithm deprecates my title and won’t serve the ads.

I remember going to writer’s conferences and being put off by how people treat editors. Speaking was a baby editor—a fresh-out-of-college-20-something, the only type person who can afford to live on an assistant editor’s salary. She was smart and intelligent, but not experienced. Her opinions on literature were still forming, guided by her senior editors and realities of the marketplace. I cringed at how people treated her, as if she were a princess who, with her magic publishing wand, could change their lives forever.

Link to the rest at Fiction Notes and thanks to Darcy for the tip. Here’s a link to Darcy’s indie publishing site.

2020 Publishing Predictions: House of Indie on Fire

From The Smashwords Blog:

Welcome to my annual publishing predictions, and hello 2020!

. . . .

Each year at this time I polish off my imaginary crystal ball, read the proverbial tea leaves, and generally attempt to divine a future that is anything but divinable.

The value in speculating about the future is that it gives us all an opportunity to imagine our place in that future.  We can identify opportunities and threats, and a take steps now to alter the course of future history.

. . . .

My predictions are based on what I’m seeing.  I’m the first to admit I’m not without my blind spots.  Your vantage point might be different.  I welcome your perspective in the comments.  Working together, we can paint a truer picture.

I try to spot emerging and entrenched trends, analyze the economic and psychological drivers of those trends, and speculate how those trends will play out over time.

I’ll start by sharing my thoughts on the state of the indie nation and then I’ll jump into the predictions.

. . . .

If you’ve followed my publishing predictions over the last decade, you may have observed that in the early years my predictions were rife with gushy optimism about the increasingly important role that indie authors and indie ebooks would play in the future of publishing.  Those posts proved prescient, because indies did indeed become a force of nature in this industry.

Indies pioneered the best practices of ebook publishing and ebook marketing; proved that self-published authors can achieve awe-inspiring commercial success; and captured significant ebook market share from traditional publishers.  Indies introduced readers to an amazing diversity of new voices that would have been lost to humanity were it not for the amazing opportunities presented by ebook self-publishing and democratized retail distribution.

In recent years my publishing predictions have taken on an increasingly ominous tone.  Although I’m a naturally optimistic person and more inclined to see cups as half full than half empty, I’m a realist as well.

I care about truth.  Truth is my anchor, and I’m always searching for it to keep me moored in the choppy seas of an ever-changing reality.  In business as in life, I try to keep my opinions flexible and open to modification when facts change.

It’s time to recognize that if the indie publishing movement were a house, the house is on fire and not enough people have noticed yet.

. . . .

I celebrated the virtues of the indie author movement back in 2014 when I published the Indie Author Manifesto.  I celebrate the movement and its world-changing potential to this day.

Yet it’s becoming increasingly clear to me that the indie author movement and everything it represents is in jeopardy.  Authors liberated themselves from one gatekeeper only to find themselves in the clutches of another.

Can authors honestly call themselves indie authors when they’re getting 80-100% of their sales from a single retailer?

What is independence anyway?  If I wrap myself in chains and submit myself to the mercy of a single sales outlet, am I still an indie author if such bondage is by choice?

If each of Amazon’s ebook retailing competitors left the ebook market tomorrow, would it make a difference to your future?

Indies appear to have made their choice.  Get a group of indies together for any period of time, whether it’s in an online forum or in person at a writers conference, and the conversation invariably devolves into questions of how to please Amazon and its algorithms.  Shouldn’t the conversation be about how to please readers?

The indie community is beginning to grapple with these difficult but important questions of what it means to be indie.  Although I remain optimistic about the potential of the indie author movement, I’m losing confidence that the community at large has the necessary situational awareness to dig itself out of the hole it now finds itself in.

. . . .

Many bestselling authors from four or five years ago have seen their sales plummet. Some have cut back production or quit writing altogether to take on a “real” job that pays. Jobs that don’t involve writing. This saddens me, because when you strip a person of their ability to pursue their creative passion, a part of them dies, and humanity as a whole suffers.

None of these talented writers suddenly became crappy writers. These writers have readers who want them to write more books but the authors are refusing to write them. When you depend on your author income to pay the bills and feed your family, you can’t write for charity.

The same factors hurting bestsellers are hurting every other author who’s trying to reach readers with their books.

When I meet an author who’s suffering, they’re often quick to blame themselves for any misfortune. This year I heard each of the following repeatedly:

  • I need to learn how to do better on Amazon ads.
  • I need to learn how to do better on Facebook ads.
  • I need to find more paid marketing opportunities.

The above answers are like a moth saying, “I need to fly faster toward the flame.”

You can’t fix a problem if you’re unable to identify the cause. In my 2019 publishing predictions post last year, I identified the primary cause, and expressed my bewilderment that so many authors and even large traditional publishers were continuing to make decisions that ran against their best long term interest. As I wrote in that post, when I posed this conundrum to literary agent Michael Larson, co-founder of the San Francisco Writers Conference, he responded, “Pain seeks simple solutions.”

. . . .

Some industry watchers have attempted to divide the indie universe into two camps: The serious professionals and the amateur hobbyists.  As this thinking goes, the professionals are serious and implement best practices, and the amateurs are amateurs and therefore flail and fail.  I find this view unsatisfying and even dangerous.

Yes, there are lazy amateurs out there who still think their illegible homemade ebook cover is wonderful because if you click to expand the cover image and squint, you can read all the important words in the image (!!!!).  Darwin will sort out the delusional, pig-headed and willfully ignorant.

Yet there are talented professional authors who implement best practices, write super-awesome reader-pleasing books, invest in expensive professional editors and cover designers and marketing teams, and they too flail and fail.  Something else is going on here.

. . . .

Publishing is not an easy business to learn.  It takes time, an inquisitive mind, and a lot of hard work.  A newbie author might have a master’s degree in biochemistry, neuroscience, or sociology, but that doesn’t mean they’re equipped to make intelligent publishing decisions.

Thousands of new indie authors enter the market each year.  The path forward for them is more confusing than it was a mere 10 years ago.  New authors are confronted by a cacophony of advice and unlimited options from so-called experts.

Often the advice from experts is conflicting or just plain wrong which causes further confusion.  Confusion leads authors to make poor choices.  Often the simplest solution to the pain is the wrong solution.  Confusion makes aspiring authors more likely to fall prey to predators, and more likely to make decisions that undermine the long term opportunities for all writers.

It’s not just the newbie authors who are making poor choices.

. . . .

I had a revelatory epiphany earlier this year that helped me view the challenges faced by indie authors in a new light.  The epiphany was triggered after stumbling across a brilliant essay from the 1980s titled, The Basic Laws of Human Stupidity by Italian economist, Carlo M. Cipolla.

. . . .

His essay attempts to explain how the behavior of each individual affects a society at large.  He posits that people occupy one of four quadrants, defined as follows:

Intelligent – Cipolla argues that Intelligent people make decisions that reap mutual benefit for both the individual and society.  These people naturally gravitate toward win-win decisions and relationships.  Their actions elevate a society for everyone’s benefit.

Bandits – Bandits act selfishly with callous disregard for society.  Think of thieves, cheaters, scammers, and others who are only out for themselves.  Although no one likes thieves, Cipolla posits they’re a net neutral to society because they’re just transfering value from one pocket to another.

Stupid – Cipolla definines stupid people as those who make self-destructive decisions that also harm society.  Stupid people are a net negative to society.  Their actions sap society of its wealth and potential.

Helpless – Helpless people are adept at making decisions that never benefit themselves, but always benefit someone else. Similar to bandits, helpless people are a net neutral to society because their loss is someone else’s gain.  Although bandits and the helpless don’t drag a society down per se, they also don’t contribute to the society’s prosperity.

The essay makes clear that intelligence, banditry, stupidity and helplessness have nothing to do with education level, race, religion, political orientation or socioeconomic class.  Instead, these labels are more a reflection of one’s personal priorities, world view, curiosity or willful ignorance, and the desire and capability – or lack thereof – to not act stupid.

Every society, country or large family will have a mix of each of the four types of people, as well as those who straddle the gray areas of each quadrant’s border.  The same holds true for any business entity, retailers included.  The really interesting stuff happens in the gray areas, because that’s where an otherwise stable or vibrant society can slip into stagnation or decline when things tilt out of balance.

The lessons in Cipolla’s essay are rich in their applicability to any situation, especially if rather than viewing it as an explanation for why a society might rise or fall, you view it through the lens of how a movement might rise or fall.  The outcome for any movement – whether it’s the indie author movement or a political movement – is determined by the interplay between the four groups.

Put another way, a society or movement performs best when the majority of participants are making decisions that produce enough positive benefits to society to counter the decisions by those that sap a society of its strength.  The more participants who occupy the Intelligent group, the more prosperous the society.  While it would be wonderful if all members of society landed in the Intelligent group, such a utopian dream is unattainable.

. . . .

Back in 2011, Amazon introduced a predatory scheme with KDP Select which later spawned Kindle Unlimited (2014).  These interconnected publishing options devalued indie ebooks, stripped indies of their independence, and starved Amazon’s ebook retailing competitors of books and customers.  Traditional publishers acted like KDPS/KU was only a problem for self-published authors who were already selling their cheap books too cheaply anyway.  But when indie ebooks are artificially devalued to the point that readers are reluctant to purchase single-copy ebooks, all books are devalued.

In other words, the entire industry had a hand to play in the banditry, stupidity and helplessness that authors observe today.

If you question why an individual author, publisher or retailer should care about the success or failure of the indie author movement, the answer is that we’re all in this together.

If we allow a single retailer to grind all the profit out of publishing, we can look forward to a dim future Amazon’s competitors exit the market, royalty rates drop further, and where the only books that get published are from deep-pocketed hobbyists who are willing to pay more to be read than they earn in income.

It’s not too late for indie authors to chart a more prosperous course for their careers.  It starts with fiercely defending the independence upon which the indie author movement was born.  Your independence is your power.  Don’t let others take it away.

. . . .

Sanctions coming against Amazon and Facebook – In my predictions for the last two years, I predicted that the pressure would grow for the political establishment to bring some of these too-powerful platforms to heel.  When a company tangles its tentacles too far, too wide and too deep, it suffocates innovation.  Here’s a cooking metaphor for those of us who’ve mastered the art of boiling water.  If 2018 was pre-boil, then 2019 became a full-on simmer, with politicians on both sides of the aisle agreeing that something needs to be done.  In 2020, the calls to break up these companies will reach a full boil.

Backlash coming against Amazon Ads for stealing author platform – Last year I predicted that Amazon would become recognized as pay-to-play in 2019, and certainly that view became more accepted in 2019.  Amazon’s transition into pay-to-play marks a sad realization of the satirical April Fools post I wrote in back in 2017 titled, Kindle Power Bucks, which solved the age-old book marketing problem by allowing authors to pay to be read.  In 2020, we’ll see the author backlash.  It’s not that the idea of advertising is a bad one.  What’s bad is how Amazon implements advertising.  Amazon replaced their also bought shelves with sponsored ad shelves. This means they removed the organic book recommendation wisdom of fellow readers and replaced it with paid advertisements.  It’s a disservice to readers because now a book’s visibility is measured by the author’s ability to pay for that visibility.  As I wrote in Publishers Weekly last month in my column titled, Platform Theft, Amazon Ads enable Amazon to sell your author platform to the highest bidder.  Try this exercise learn how this affects you:  Click to the Amazon home page, select Books, and enter your pen name.  It’s not uncommon for the first three search rows to be occupied by sponsored ads for four books by other authors.  It’s also common to find that up to one third of all your results on that search results page are promoting other authors that Amazon knows are not you.  Each is a detour designed to take your reader away from your books.  It also means that Amazon is forcing indies to trample upon the platforms of fellow authors simply to remain visible in the store, in the same way that KDP-Select causes authors to trample upon the visibility of their fellow authors who refuse to go exclusive.  You work hard to build your readership and your author brand.  Now Amazon’s working hard to take it away, cloaked in the vapid veneer of a paid marketing opportunity.

Audiobooks disappoint – For indie authors, peak audio may already have come and gone.  The audiobook market will grow in 2020, but the average participating author will see slower growth or even declines.  The first indie authors to do audiobooks reaped the most benefits.  Now the market’s getting crowded.  Amazon’s Audible division continues to maintain a stranglehold on audio, and similar to Amazon’s strategy to commoditize and devalue everything they sell, they’re successfully devaluing audiobooks (by restricting the author’s ability to set their own prices, and demanding long term exclusivity for the best visibility) which means your profit opportunity will continue to decline in audiobooks for the same reasons it has declined in ebooks.

. . . .

Single-copy ebook sales face continued pressure from Kindle Unlimited – I’ve made similar predictions in prior years, and we’ll see this trend continue into 2020.  When readers have unlimited access to over one million ebooks with their Kindle Unlimited subscription they can read for free, and when the subscription service decouples author compensation from the author-set single-copy price of the book, it’s a recipe for significant devaluation, and it gives readers over a million reasons to never purchase another single copy ebook again.  Even 99-cent ebooks start to look too expensive to readers when they read other books for what feels like free.

Platform ownership to become a top indie imperative – Most authors already know the importance of building their marketing platform.  Your platform is your ability to reach your prior and prospective readers.  To date, most authors have focused the majority of their platform-building on growing their social media following, and building readership at the various retailers.  But when your relationship with your readers is mediated by a third party, it means that third party is the gatekeeper to your readers.  That third party can erect tolls or implement other policy changes that make it difficult, expensive or impossible to reach the readers who want to purchase your book.  In the examples of Facebook and Amazon we see blatant toll-taking.  In 2020, more authors will wake up to the danger and realize the imperative of building an author-controlled marketing platform.  This doesn’t mean authors will need to open their own ebook stores (most who try gain a new appreciation for the valuable services offered by a retailer).  Not all retailers are the problem.  I can’t think of a single instance in the 10-year indie ebook retailing history of Apple Books or Barnes & Noble, for example, where either implemented a single policy change designed to tax authors, reduce royalty rates, or strip them of their publishing freedom.  Despite Apple and Barnes & Noble being the second and third largest sellers of English language ebooks, both are small potatoes compared to the worst offender Amazon that has implemented new policies each year for the last 10 years that strip authors and publishers of their profit margin and independence.

. . . .

Romance Writers of America faces make or break year in 2020  – I’ve long been a fan of Romance Writers of America, one of the largest and best organized professional writing organizations here in the US.  The organization has been operating continuously since 1980 when editor Vivian Stephens joined with other romance writers to form a national organization to advocate for the interests of romance writers.  In the years since, RWA has helped tens of thousands of romance writers.  This past July, it was my great honor when the RWA board of directors awarded me their 2019 Vivian Stephens Industry Award for my contribution to the genre.  Following the acceptance of my award in New York, I enjoyed meeting several RWA board members during the conference’s after-party.  Therefore, as you might imagine, I was shocked and saddened to learn that most of the RWA board abrupty resigned over the Christmas holiday in protest to what they viewed as secret backroom dealings related to how they handled allegations of racial insensitivity.  The story even caught the attention of the New York Times who covered it yesterday.  Many members now feel angry, hurt and disappointed. This turmoil is a critical test for RWA’s leadership.  How they deal with it will have lasting implications for RWA’s future and possibly even its survival.  I hope they rise to meet the challenge and emerge from this crisis stronger, better, and more inclusive than ever.  Diversity is strength!

Link to the rest at The Smashwords Blog

PG hadn’t visited Smashwords for a long time.

Mark Coker deserves credit for being an early facilitator of self-publishing and ebooks. More than one successful indie author gained his/her start and began to build a loyal readership on Smashwords.

However, it’s really, really, really tough to compete with Amazon and has been for a long time. Smashwords, iBooks and Nook were early victims (they are each still alive, but much smaller than they would have been absent Amazon), but Amazon claimed many other victims as well.

Here’s a link to a list of 81 major retail bankruptcies that have occurred in the last five years with Amazon as a major contributor for most.

Even the biggest retailer of all, Walmart’s pretax income in 2019 was less than half of its income in 2015 as was its net income.

In terms of revenues, Walmart is basically the same size as it was ten years ago. Amazon’s revenue is over twelve times larger than it was ten years ago.

Perhaps PG didn’t read Mark’s blog post well enough, but PG didn’t see a lot of reasons for an author to do business with Smashwords. It was more Sturm und Drang than advantages Smashwords could provide to an indie author absent evil Amazon Mandalorian stormtroopers doom and gloom.

PG took a quick look at two of Smashwords’ major competitors – Draft2Digital and Kobo – and the difference in websites and the attitude that each communicated was, for him, striking. D2D and Kobo each had clean, fresh-looking site designs and communicated an upbeat professional attitude toward their business and, by extension, their respective futures.

D2D, in particular, had lots of information and resources for indie authors – sales and marketing tools, D2D Author Pages with features found on quality author websites, book tabs, a universal book link builder, “a single link that can take readers to everywhere your book is sold online,” and differentiating service positioning – “Self-Publishing with Support.”

As to Laws of Stupidity, is that really a persuasive reason to choose Smashwords over Amazon?

 

 

3 First-Time Self-Publishing Mistakes to Avoid

From Amazon Author Insights:

Finishing NaNoWriMo in 2008 felt like digging my fingers into the earth and flipping over a mountain. I grit my teeth until they chipped and I shaved years off my life expectancy.

Or at least that’s what it felt like, and with good reason. After twenty days of non-stop writing I put down fifty thousand words, more than anything I’d ever done before. The momentum was such that I wrote another sixty thousand by December 20th and completed the first draft of my novel MUTEKI – Sendero de los Campeones (Road of Champions). It was a suitable title for a project that almost singlehandedly rescued me from the pits of depression. In my mind I was a champion.

Or at least I was until I published the book and everything went to hell in a handbasket.

. . . .

1. I delivered unpolished work.

The people in charge of printing my book were crystal clear: you have to turn this in ASAP or else it won’t come out on time. This shouldn’t have been an issue. If I pitched the book that’s because it’s ready, right?

You’re forgetting that…

2. I never hired a proofreader/editor.

This is embarrassing to say even six years after the fact, but I never bothered to look into paying an editor. Not even with “exposure”. I didn’t know one, I was broke, and I thought I would do a pretty decent editing job. Turns out I didn’t.

Looking back at the novel now, I’m noticing not only typos but pointless scenes, cringe-y dialogue, characters that change names halfway through, and–worst of all–sentences mangled by the “replace all” feature.

. . . .

3. I didn’t ask for any proof copies.

Proof copies are your best friends. Without those you can’t preview the final product. That’s why the inside margins of my book were off and some pages came up blank due to terrible formatting. Some of the books were even missing pages.

But hey. I had a book.

Link to the rest at Amazon Author Insights

The Top 10 Reasons to be Thankful for Self-Publishing

From Outskirts Press:

As Thanksgiving draws near, it’s time to take stock of everything there is to be thankful for. Family, friends, love, laughter … and being a published author (or the opportunity to be published soon). There’s never been a better time to be a writer.

. . . .
1. eBooks. Just having the ability to offer books in an easy-to-order format has opened up a massive sales channel for independent authors. As readers move from hardcopy to electronic books, the ability for anyone to get their book in front of these customers is priceless exposure — and offering an ebook is easy.

2.Social media. When knocking on doors, making phone calls, buying ads and getting media coverage aren’t on your busy holiday calendar, reaching out to large audiences is still achievable, thanks to social media sites like Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Instagram and more. Author pages can be set up quickly, so you can let others know about your book from the comfort of your home.
. . . .

6. Goodreads. Self-published authors can easily make use of many selling tools on the Goodreads platform to foster relationships with readers, promote their books and sell more copies.

. . . .

10. Amazon. Nowadays, the world’s largest retailer may be more concerned with making money than supporting authors (as revealed in this New York Times article), but there is still something to be said when a self-publishing author can be a #1 bestseller on the world’s largest bookselling website.

Link to the rest at Outskirts Press

PG will gently suggest that the idea that profitable business organizations exist that are focused on “supporting authors” is probably incorrect. Other than authors groups, most other business operations are focused on making money from authors and the books they write.

In some cases, the profit objective can be a win-win proposition – the “supporting authors” operation only makes money if the author makes money and only after the  author makes money” and the “supporting authors” operation is, in fact, more dependent upon authors than other entities for the making money part of the business (PG is thinking about literary agents who represent dozens of authors to a handful of  publishers and are far, far more concerned about keeping any given publisher happy than making certain an author is able to make a living at his/her writing pursuits.)

As far as Amazon is concerned, PG has a couple  of  suggestions:

  1. Never believe any story The New York Times publishes about Amazon without lots of corroborating evidence from other sources, preferably not based in New York City.
  2. No organization has done more good for more authors – ever – than Amazon and KDP. Amazon opened the gates so authors could reach readers with nothing but a bunch of electrons organized into an ebook. For the first time among all publishers and booksellers, Amazon was willing for the author to receive the majority of the price the reader paid for the author’s book – 70% to be exact.

Healthy Holly

From NBC News:

Former Baltimore Mayor Catherine Pugh was indicted on multiple charges Wednesday, including wire fraud and tax evasion, in connection with the sales of her self-published children’s books.

The U.S. Attorney’s Office in Maryland announced the charges in an 11-count federal indictment alleging that Pugh used her company, Healthy Holly, to publish books and then sell them “directly to nonprofit organizations and foundations, many of whom did business or attempted to do business with Maryland state government and Baltimore City.”

Pugh resigned in early May after authorities began probing whether she arranged bulk sales of “Healthy Holly” books to disguise hundreds of thousands of dollars in kickbacks.

Federal, state and local probes have been looking into questionable financial arrangements for her hard-to-find books. The books were meant to be provided to schools and day care centers, but it’s unclear where tens of thousands of copies ended up.

The Democrat was elected mayor in 2016 after having served in the state Legislature since 2005. As a state senator, she once sat on a committee that funded the University of Maryland Medical System, one of the state’s largest private employers.

The hospital network — on whose board she sat starting in 2001 and until the scandal over the illustrated paperbacks erupted in March — was Pugh’s biggest book customer.

The system paid Pugh $500,000 for 100,000 copies. There was no contract behind the deal and the medical system described some of the purchases as “grants” in federal filings. She returned her most recent $100,000 payment and described the deal as a “regrettable mistake” during a news conference days before she retreated from public view.

Link to the rest at NBC News

 

Bunches of Stuff Happened

PG owed Mrs. PG a lot of tasks today.

She has revamped the backmatter in her older books, wants to revert to earlier covers that aren’t so dark for some, insert a promo for her latest book, etc., etc.

These tasks have refamiliarized PG with Jutoh, his go-to formatting tool during the early stages of Mrs. PG’s self-publishing adventures when she was refreshing and redoing books for which she had regained rights from a former publisher that was a bit sloppy with its contracts.

That was PG’s earliest experience with dissecting publishing agreements and it delivered Mrs. PG and several of her books from backlist penury into the shining meadows of indie publishing.

Suffice to say, PG’s formatting practices went through various iterations during the early processes of preparing new ebook and pbook versions of Mrs. PG’s novels, so he spent a bit of time today becoming reacquainted with his old learning curve which took jumps from book to book and standardizing his formatting practices across several books so when he needs to do something with these titles again, it should be less of a journey of discovery than it was today.

Jutoh was and is an excellent program that provides many, many options and controls over every tiny element of a book’s appearance (PG went crazy with styles for a while and can’t remember why he liked some of them so much), but PG’s recent experience formatting books with Kindle Create is a far more rapid process that produces more uniform results.

That’s PG’s excuse for catching up on TPV posts later in the day than is normal.

Self-publishing is opening up avenues for Tamil writers to shine

From The Hindu:

The emergence of platforms like Kindle Direct Publishing has created opportunities for aspiring authors writing in regional languages

Senthil Balan always had a penchant for writing.

A doctor, who practises in Muscat, Balan could neither afford the time nor focus his energies towards gleaning the attention of traditional publishing houses, considering the exacting nature of his profession. So, he logged in to Amazon and self-published his book through the global e-commerce giant’s Kindle Direct Publishing (KDP) platform.

Earlier this year, Balan was picked as one of the winners of KDP’s Pen to Publish contest for his self-published book, Parangi Malai Irayil Nilaiyam (St Thomas Mount Railway Station), part of a series of books based on the character he created, Detective Karthick Aldo. “Five years ago, I wouldn’t have believed if someone told me that an NRI like me could be a published author and reach millions of readers,” says Balan, in a recorded message played at a panel discussion, put together by Amazon KDP.

. . . .

The programme discussed how the evolution of online publishing platforms has opened up lucrative avenues for Tamil language authors. Says Vaishali Aggarwal, head, Amazon KDP — India, “KDP is an easy way to publish and has led to a more diverse set of voices telling their stories to people.”

There has been a considerable increase in demand for these texts. “At least 10 out of 100 trending Kindle e-books are self-published ones. The numbers are higher when it comes to Tamil, and this shows that the reader is open to experimenting,” adds Vaishali.

Writer and filmmaker Cable Sankar, who was one of the panellists, noted that the emergence of avenues similar to KDP has broken the notion that only famous names could publish books in Tamil. “It has also taken away the fear of publishing costs from the author,” he says.

Noted Tamil language author Pa Raghavan concurs with Sankar and adds, “There is a high readership for fiction-based books on KDP. But the demand for fiction books exceeded my expectation. For example, one of my 1200-page novels, which was published by a prominent publishing house, took about eight months to sell 600 paperback copies. When I put it up on Kindle, it sold more than 1,000 copies in less than two months.”

Link to the rest at The Hindu

BookLife by Publishers Weekly Launches Paid Review Service for Self-Published Authors

From No Shelf Required:

Remember when Kirkus introduced paid reviews over a decade or more ago? And how badly the book industry took it? We’ve come a long way since then. Below a press release from PW on its own paid review service for self-published authors.

“BookLife, Publishers Weekly‘s website and monthly supplement dedicated to self-publishing, is pleased to announce the launch of BookLife Reviews, a new reviews service open exclusively to self-published authors. BookLife Reviews provides authors with skillful, detailed reviews that include a variety of marketing insights and critical assessments, crafted by professional Publishers Weekly reviewers with genre-specific expertise.

. . . .

BookLife Reviews differ from Publishers Weekly reviews in that BookLife Reviews are longer—approximately 300 words, compared to 200  250 words for a Publishers Weekly review—and more focused on reaching readers rather than booksellers and librarians. Because they are paid reviews, costing $399  $499 each, they are guaranteed; submissions will not be rejected. Participants will receive their reviews within four to six weeks of submission. Authors will also have the option at no additional cost of seeing their reviews published in the monthly BookLife supplement, which is bound into the print copy of Publishers Weekly.”

Link to the rest at No Shelf Required

PG suggests this demonstrates a growing understanding that successful indie authors are earning good money and spending part of that money on marketing and advertising campaigns for their new books.

The strategy reflected in the OP may also demonstrate some concern about the future financial picture for traditional publishers.

ISBN Registrations Jump 40% After Createspace is Merged Into KDP Print

From The Digital Reader

Bowker, the private company responsible for issuing ISBNs in the US, released its annual report on the number ISBN’s sold last year.

The data doesn’t tell us as much as some would think, but it did show that Amazon’s Createspace (aka KDP Print) bought the lion’s share of ISBNs in 2018. Out of 1,677,781 ISBNs registered in 2018, a total of 1,416,384 were sourced through Createspace. That is a jump of about half a million ISBN registrations from 2017, when Createspace accounted for 929,295 out of 1,192,345 ISBNs registered.

The increase is probably due to Createspace being bundled into KDP last year, and reflects authors taking the opportunity to create print editions for their existing ebooks.

Bowker concluded that the increase meant that “Self-Publishing Grew 40 Percent in 2018”, but I would be willing to bet any amount of money you cared to name that they are wrong. (I count print and ebook editions of a title as one, not several.)

The data is of course limited to mainly self-published authors in the USA, and is far from complete. For example, there’s no mention of Ingram Spark, a POD service that competes with Createspace slash KDP Print. That is probably because Ingram Spark recommends that everyone buy their own ISBN, preferably directly from Bowker.

Link to the rest at The Digital Reader

PG just noticed a typo in the title and fixed it.

Self-Publishing is the Best Solution to Low Author Earnings

From ALLi:

There is an old business saying: follow the money to see the true story. If we follow the money in publishing, from the perspective of authors, what story does it tell us?

This is the typical money trail in trade publishing:

  1. Reader pays bookstore
  2. Bookstore pays wholesaler
  3. Wholesaler pays distributor (sometimes wholesaler and distributor are one)
  4. Distributor pays publisher
  5. Publisher pays agent
  6. Agent pays author many months after the sale (who, by the time everyone has had their cut, receives less than 10% of book retail price).

This business model of selling print books through bookstores is not commercially viable for most indie authors. Economies of scale means that few of us can compete with trade publishing in the  print-book-to-bookstore model. And the economics of physical bookstore distribution, given the discounts retailers, wholesalers and distributors need to make their profits, are punishing, even for big publishers.

. . . .

In self-publishing the most common money chain looks like this:

  1. Reader pays online bookstore (the author’s website or a retailer such as Amazon, Apple, Google, Kobo etc).
  2. Author gets paid immediately on own website (full cost of book, minus publishing expenses); or 90 days after transaction (up to 70% of book retail price) through the retailer or one of the aggregators who distribute to them (who will also take a cut).

And these online stores, with their global readership, 24/7, give far more access to readers than any physical store can provide.

. . . .

Self-Publishing is also advantageous from a rights perspective.

The days of needing to give an exclusive, all-territories, long-term, license to a publisher in order to see our books on sale, disappeared a decade ago.

Indie authors retain ownership of all publishing rights and the savvy author understands the value of that. Owning and creating value from our rights, today’s authors can adopt a variety of business models, produce a variety of book-related content, in text, video and audio and distribute it through a variety of outlets and platforms, not least our own websites.

The author who is stuck in a Cinderella complex, where Prince Publisher Charming is going to sweep in, fall in love with their book, and carry them off to fame and fortune, without them having to do the work, has failed to grasp the enormity of what gets handed over in such a transaction.

. . . .

What few authors know is that a publisher’s business model is built on failure for the majority of authors that they take on. Of every 20 authors who sign with them, probably two will do well enough to make a living from their writing (and pay the overheads of the publisher). The problem is they don’t know which two it will be.

They are fired out into the marketplace, to see what sticks. From the publisher’s perspective, that’s understandable. They know they only need that one or two to do well in order to recoup their investment in all.

The effect for the authors is devastating. They, and their “failed” books are dropped, but they have gained no publishing skills in the transaction. Any confidence they gained from signing the deal in the first place has probably been eroded. And if they seek another publisher they are doing so from a very weak bargaining position.

By contrast, those who self-publish, and combine self-publishing with selective, non-exclusive licensing, are building skills and confidence with each book, each sale, each negotiation, each deal. We are building an author business, step by step, book by book, reader by reader, collaboration by collaboration.

As an author, you may relish the creative challenges of self-publishing, or you may quail at them, but building those skills empowers you.

Link to the rest at ALLi

What is hybrid publishing?

From Nathan Bransford:

In the last twenty years there has been an explosion of new publishing models that take advantage of new opportunities afforded by the internet and advances in printing on demand. There’s also been a corresponding rise in scams. So what is “hybrid publishing” and how does it fit into all of this?

Hybrid publishing isn’t quite traditional publishing and it isn’t quite self-publishing. Essentially: A hybrid publisher takes on some or all of the functions of a traditional publisher, but the author shares in more of both the initial investment (in the form of fees) as well as the upside (in the form of higher royalties).

It’s tough to generalize about hybrid publishing because there are so many different models with so many differing levels of legitimacy. Many scam artists out there have taken advantage of the hype around hybrid publishing in order to put a glossy spin on exploitive practices.

One more reason for confusion around hybrid publishing is that a “hybrid author” is a totally separate term. This usually refers to an author who has been both traditionally published and self-published (such as yours truly), not necessarily someone who has published a book with a hybrid publisher.

Hybrid publishing is still viewed with quite a bit of skepticism in some corners of the publishing world, with some still viewing it as little more than vanity publishing by another name. But as publishing continues to evolve away from the virtual monopoly of traditional publishing, expect to see new upstarts continue to pop up in this zone.

. . . .

One helpful way to think about the book publishing process is as a collection of services, such as editing, design, and distribution. In traditional publishing, the publisher handles all of the services and pays the author an advance on top of that. In self-publishing, the author handles (or outsources) all of the services but receives more money per copy sold.

In hybrid publishing, the hybrid publisher usually manages these services, including distribution, but the author shares in the cost of production and an initial print run in exchange for royalties that are higher than traditional publishing but less than self-publishing.

In theory, hybrid publishers offer value by managing these tasks for the author, and some offer better design and print distribution than a self-published author would be able to achieve on their own.

Some hybrid publishers are selective in the authors they choose to take on, others are more like assisted publishing models that will take on all comers.

. . . .

There are really two types of authors who should consider hybrid publishing:

  • Authors with cash who are looking for a bit more upside than regular self-publishing.
  • Authors with cash who don’t want to manage the publishing process on their own.

Notice the “with cash” part? Yeah. If you don’t have cash to burn there are more economical ways of getting your book out there. Traditional publishers will pay you to publish your book, and self-publishing tends to cost less than hybrid publishing, especially if you handle some of the tasks on your own.

Some authors might appreciate having the publishing process managed for them and are willing to pay to not have to get into the self-published weeds. Or you might come across a hybrid publisher who genuinely seems to offer a value add with their design or distribution.

. . . .

At worst, a hybrid publisher is really just a vanity press or scam artist in disguise, taking advantage of the buzz around hybrid publishing and exploiting your ego to charge you top dollar for things you don’t need.

. . . .

  • Know what you’re signing. What rights are you handing over? What costs are you committing to? How can you get out of the arrangement if things go south? Be absolutely sure of what you’re getting into before you commit.
  • Be very skeptical of agents and publishers who use a bait and switch that steers you to their self-publishing arm. Many publishers, including some of the major ones, use extremely scuzzy services that are at best extractive of your cash and at worst wholly exploitive. Some reputable agencies have established legitimate hybrid publishing enterprises, but unless you’re already a pre-existing client, be very skeptical.

Link to the rest at Nathan Bransford

PG will second the warning about scam artists contained in the OP.

At this point in the self-publishing revolution, there are quality cover artists who are happy to work with indie authors for an appropriate fee. There are quality editors who are willing to work with indie authors for an appropriate fee.

Book formatting for most fiction books and many non-fiction books has become much easier to do on your own with Amazon’s Self-Publishing Resources, including Kindle Create. However, it’s not difficult to find a professional book formatting artist who will work with indie authors for an appropriate fee.

If you want help, email and online marketing service specialists are not difficult to find . . . online!.

PG thinks in all but very unusual cases, the author should be the boss and everyone else should be a contractor, providing a particular service. The author needs to be in the position to advance fees to the various specialists, but that relationship puts the author in control. If money is very tight, friends, acquaintances, high school or college art students looking for opportunities to build artistic résumés, etc., are possibilities.

The author is the one who publishes the book and receives all sales proceeds directly from Amazon, Nook, Kobo, etc. If accounting or business management help is needed, the author can send copies of royalty reports to those specialists providing assistance.

What Is a Hybrid Publisher?

From Jane Friedman:

Over the last year, I’ve received more questions than ever—usually from journalists—asking me to explain “hybrid publishing.”

This is a confusing term to discuss, because you will hear different definitions or descriptions of hybrid publishing depending on who you ask and what their agenda is. The term has become popular among companies that wish to put a new, “innovative” face on a very common, age-old activity: charging writers to publish.

Here’s what I think most people can agree on: Hybrid publishers combine aspects of traditional publishing and self-publishing.

. . . .

While is nearly impossible to generally describe hybrids, here are some rough categories you’ll find in the market today.

  • Editorially curated. While authors typically subsidize the costs of editing or publication, the publisher doesn’t accept every author who walks through the door. As a result of their selectivity, the publisher usually has better marketing and distribution. Examples include She Writes Press and Greenleaf Book Group.
  • Crowdfunding driven. Publishers such as Inkshares and Unbound require the author to raise a certain amount of money from their readership before they are granted a deal, which then closely adheres to a traditional publishing process.
  • Assisted self-publishing. Authors pay to publish, and there is little or no discernment in what types of authors are accepted.
  • Traditional publishers with a self-publishing arm. Some traditional publishers—usually small presses you haven’t heard of—may offer author services or assisted self-publishing.

These last two categories can be the most questionable in value. In the case of assisted self-publishing or publishing services (called “vanity presses” in the old days), these companies adopt the moniker of “hybrid publisher” to look more innovative or attractive to authors. They’re not really a hybrid publisher unless they can point to what they do that offers a traditional publisher’s value—such as selectivity in acquisitions, editorial guidance and vision, and distribution and marketing muscle that can’t be secured on your own as a self-publishing author.

In the case of small presses with a self-publishing arm—which may not offer great professionalism to begin with in their traditional operations—they may be using paid services to prop up their business and also to position themselves as progressive. These can be the most frustrating “hybrids” of all, since they might be identifying themselves primarily as a traditional publisher and be listed in market guides such as Writer’s Market, but could use that as a bait-and-switch: Oh, sorry, your work doesn’t meet our editorial needs for our traditional publishing operation, but would you like to pay for our hybrid publishing [or self-publishing] service?

Link to the rest at Jane Friedman

Understanding the relationship between game developers and publishers

From Gaming Street:

Not only are developers and publishers two distinct entities, but they have often been at odds with each other for decades. Put simply, developers typically focus on creative aspects while publishers handle the financial ones. This may seem like a narrow description to some, yet it’s one that has bubbled to the surface repeatedly since the formation of the first third-party developer in the late 1970s. While disagreements are often unavoidable, the best partnerships come when developers and publishers work together toward a common vision. However, there are plenty of examples where the relationship was far from amicable.

. . . .

  • Game Developer: A game developer is a company or entity that designs and executes the creation of video games. Much like film, games can be developed by as little as a single person to as many as hundreds of people spread across several international studios, with budgets from the low thousands to the hundreds of millions.
  • Game Publisher: Companies that publish games may include providing services such as funding, marketing, distribution, and public relations. Publishers have long been a requirement of getting games onto most platforms due to their monetary value, but digital distribution and new ways of financing independent titles, such as crowdfunding, have shaken up the status quo.
  • First-Party: A first-party publisher refers to companies that make game platforms, such as Microsoft and the Xbox, while first-party developers are internal studios or have been acquired by said companies and develop exclusively for those platforms. Aside from Microsoft, Sony (PlayStation) and Nintendo (Switch) are the two other major first-party companies in the current console generation.
  • Third-Party: Third-party companies may develop and/or publish games without being tied to any single platform. Activision Blizzard, Electronic Arts, Square Enix, Capcom, and Ubisoft are five of the most prolific third-party companies.
  • Second-Party: Second-party is an unofficial term associated with third-party developers who operate like first-party developers by repeatedly taking platform-exclusive contracts, usually with the same partner.

. . . .

Throughout the coin-op and home console boom of the ’70s, publishing and development were virtually synonymous. Hardware companies such as Atari developed games for their own platforms in-house. When Nolan Bushnell sold off Atari, Inc. to Warner Communications in 1979, developers quickly felt slighted, underappreciated, and under-compensated for their work by the new regime. Atari game developer David Crane was directly responsible for games that had earned the company over $20M, but was only being paid a salary of $20,000 with no royalties. Crane and three other Atari all-stars confronted the new CEO, Ray Kassar, about these conditions, and after Kassar told them anyone could do their job, they left Atari and formed an independent game development company named Activision — a portmanteau of “active” and “television.”

During the following years, Atari attempted to sue Activision out of business. The suit was settled in 1982 when Activision agreed to pay Atari royalties for Activision games published on Atari’s hardware, essentially creating the third-party development market. That same year, Activision released Pitfall!, which sold over four million copies and boosted Activision’s annual revenues to an estimated $60 million.

. . . .

Shortly after Activision hit it big in the early 1980s, the video game market suffered a severe crash, putting many companies (including Atari) into an irreversible tailspin. From the ashes of countless shuttered companies that had been titans rose Japanese company Nintendo. The Nintendo Entertainment System (NES), the Western counterpart to the Japanese Famicom (Family Computer) home video game console, was an unparalleled success thanks in large part to Super Mario Bros.

Nintendo’s first-party games (Super Mario Bros., The Legend of Zelda, Metroid) were blockbuster hits, and Nintendo had no meaningful competition, giving it a monopoly over the home console market. It allowed third-party developers to license cartridges  — which Nintendo was the sole manufacturer of — to be published for the NES, but with strict quality and content requirements and high licensing fees. Other rules included platform exclusivity, minimum cartridge orders, and a limit on how many games a single company could develop each year. The United States Department of Justice, the U.S. Congress, and the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) conducted extensive antitrust investigations around Nintendo’s operations, which were subsequently relaxed or removed in some cases.

Nintendo’s seemingly anti-developer temperament saw many developers and publishers turning to Nintendo’s much more developer-friendly rivals such as Sega and eventually Sony. Among them were Electronic Arts, whose officially licensed football games gave Sega a massive leg up in the 16-bit console wars, and Square, whose best-selling role-playing game Final Fantasy VII was a linchpin in solidifying the Sony PlayStation as a household name.

Although Nintendo and others now maintain healthier relationships with developers, it took a long time to get there. The company experienced problems winning third-party support for some of its game consoles until the Wii launched and became a massive hit in 2006. In the meantime, some major publishers established adversarial relationships with their developers, with stories of poor working conditions and exerting excessive creative control later surfacing.

. . . .

Fast forward two decades and the game industry has seen a multitude of shake-ups. Digital distribution through online portals such as Steam and the iTunes App Store have lowered or outright obliterated the barrier for developers of all sizes to self-publish their games, to drastically varying degrees of success and sustainability.

Crowdfunding through sites like Kickstarter and Fig have brought in millions of dollars for numerous developers. Double Fine Productions, which struggled with publisher Activision during the development of its five-year project, Brutal Legend, made headlines in 2012 when it Kickstarted its next project for $3.3M. Countless other developers followed in Double Fine’s footsteps to varying success, many having had similar sour experiences with publishers, including veteran independent studios Obsidian Entertainment and inXile Entertainment.

However, the relative ease of self-publishing led to incredibly crowded PC and mobile game markets. It soon became clear that developers and publishers needed each other after all. Developers benefited from the marketing expertise and financial backing of a publisher. Meanwhile, publishers expand their portfolio of titles by partnering with or acquiring independent game developers. Or, sometimes two companies may simply bring greater success to each other. One of the most famous deals came in 2008, when Activision acquired World of Warcraft creator Blizzard Entertainment by merging with its then parent company, Vivendi Games. Activision Blizzard made headlines again in 2016 when it purchased Candy Crush developer King for $5.9 billion.

Link to the rest at Gaming Street

5 Ways Publishing a Book Can Expedite Your Business Success

From Inc.:

What every entrepreneur needs more than anything else, after they have built an innovative new product or service, is visibility, credibility, and trust by customers, potential employees, and future business partners.

In my experience as a business adviser, one of the best ways to get all of these is to publish a book on the technology, the journey, or some relevant lessons learned.

Your book need not be a bestseller, and it probably won’t make you any money directly, but it’s the best business card you could ever imagine.

In addition, the discipline of producing it, like writing a business plan, will help you immensely in understanding the key elements that drive you and your business. Most good business people I know agree, but don’t know where to start.

. . . .

I often hear the excuse that writing a book takes precious time away from building and running your business, which you cannot afford. In fact, it does take time, but in my view brings far more value than many of the things you might otherwise be doing, including expensive advertising, extensive networking, or email blasts.

Key value elements of a good book include the following:

1. Publishing a book defines you as an influencer and authority.

Everyone realizes that writing a book is not easy, so it shows you have made a real commitment, can get things done, and are willing to take a position.

Customers pay extra and inherently gravitate to people they view as leaders, rather than others just pushing advertising and Web content.

I can tell you from my own experience as an adviser to new entrepreneurs that my first book, Do You Have What It Takes to Be an Entrepreneur, did more for my credibility and leads as an adviser than all the marketing and networking I had done previously.

. . . .

3. Having a book gives you instant credibility with clients.

People who hire consultants and coaches look for evidence of external credibility, such as reviews and referrals, to back up their own judgement of your marketing interactions with them.

If you sell to other business organizations, a book is a huge asset in reducing their perceived selection risk.
For high-potential clients, it’s well worth your investment to hand out a personally signed copy of your book in lieu of the standard business card. It makes customers feel special, and gives you the opportunity to highlight your broad experience and credentials.

4. Being an author will attract top-notch talent to your business.

Potential team members and partners who excel are attracted to leaders and influencers.

Successful businesses require the best people to deliver your vision and services one step better than the competition. They see you as a role model for their own career development.
A good example of this impact is Tony Hsieh, who wrote his own book, as well as one about the culture he was building at Zappos. These books became one of his best recruiting tools, and still are a great lead generation source for his businesses.

. . . .

Another good reason for writing your book today, using self-publishing, is that it is consistent with the entrepreneur lifestyle.

No more struggling with big publishers to meet their expectations and long production cycles–you can make your book innovative and get it done on your terms and timeline. That means you can integrate the work with your own business schedule and objectives.

Link to the rest at Inc.

New Romance-Only Bookstore Aims to Bring Love to Tinley Park

From Patch:

The second romance-only bookstore in the country opened in Tinley Park in mid-June. Love’s Sweet Arrow is owned and operated by mother-daughter team Roseann and Marissa Backlin, who were inspired to open the business by their love for romance novels.

“Romance is one of the most widely read genres in publishing, and yet there were only two exclusively romance bookstores in the world before we opened. And the only other one in the country is on the west coast,” Marissa Backlin said. “We wanted to do our part to change that and give romance readers a place to find their favorite books in the Midwest judgement-free.”

Developing the store from idea to actual opening took about a year.

“We had to do a lot of research into authors, publishing houses, form a business plan and attempt crowdfunding,” said Roseann Backlin, who also works as a food service manager at a local elementary school. The Backlins did a Kickstarter campaign that raised more than $12,000 and are now accepting donations on Patreon. “We reached out to friends who had spare bookshelves, went to a resale shop [for furniture] and were lucky enough to get some of our used stock from a retiring bookstore owner.”

. . . .

In the age of impersonal ordering on Amazon, Love’s Sweet Arrow aims to be more than just an independent bookseller offering new and used novels. Marissa and Roseann hope to make it a community space, with events centered on bringing local residents together.

“In part of our research, we found that independent bookstores that focused on that community space feel and provided events for the community at large were more successful and were embraced by the community,” Marissa said.

Love’s Sweet Arrow hosts its own book club every other month, but encourages other local clubs to host meetings at the store.

Link to the rest at Patch

PG went to school and lived for several years in the Chicago area. While he vaguely remembered the name, Tinley Park, he had no idea where it was located.

A quick search revealed that Tinley Park is a village of 56,000 in South suburban Chicago east of Joliet.

While 56,000 people sounds a bit large for a “village,” if PG recalls correctly, under state law, Illinois has Cities, Towns and Villages. They are each forms of municipal government and PG seems to remember that no more Towns are being created, just Cities and Villages.

Why, After 12 Books, I’m Self-Publishing

From Roger Simon:

After a dozen traditionally published books (ten fiction, two non-fiction), for the first time, I am self-publishing my new novel.

. . . .

Why am I self-publishing? Aside from the obvious publishing world bias against anyone to the right of Trotsky (this is particularly true for fiction; there are several good conservative venues for non-fiction), I have real reasons for having decided, after all these years and books, to self-publish. And not just because it’s clearly the wave of the future.

I believe in free markets and self-publishing is entrepreneurial. You get a greater hand in your own creative destiny, even if it’s more of a gamble.

The author foregoes a publisher’s advance for a significantly larger piece of the revenue pie and control of production, pricing, and marketing. Of course, that means paying for everything yourself from the cover design to formatting to ads.

Speaking of which, I recall asking (begging) publishers for ads on more than one occasion and being told: “Ads don’t sell books.” When I replied, “But what about using my [in those cases stellar] reviews?” I was informed, “Reviews don’t sell books.” Then I queried, “What sells books?” Silence.

Enough of that. I’ll make that call for myself from now on, thank you.

Surprisingly, and more importantly, self-publishing tends to make the book itself better — at least it did for me. How’s that? Don’t publishers have editors? Yes, and often good ones, but they don’t, in the end, hold a candle to the “beta readers” you assemble when self-publishing.

. . . .

At a publishing house, you’re lucky to have three or four people actually read your book before it’s published, not counting the marketing folks who often just look at the blurb. (Also re: marketers/publicists, well-intentioned though they may be, what they typically do is ask you whom you know and then they, the publicists, reach out to them for reviews, interviews, etc., something you could do just as easily and — if you have the moxie — more effectively for yourself.)

By the time I finished my final version of The GOAT, I had had close to two dozen of these beta readers. They came from all walks of life — from real estate brokers to tennis partners — not just literary types.

The betas were real readers in the consumer sense and their feedback was invaluable, although occasionally painful, to me. They pushed me and helped me make the book better. I owe it to them that I now believe The GOAT my best and most perfected book.

Link to the rest at Roger Simon

Self Publishing Helps Local Author Leave Government Job to Write Full Time

From WHO TV:

An Iowa author was able to leave his government job five years ago and become a full-time writer.

“I love what I do. It doesn`t seem like a job,” said Nicholas Sansbury Smith. “I love writing. I love telling stories. I think it`s a blessing to be able to do that for a career and make money doing it,” he added.

The Des Moines author spends about ten hours a day writing four to five books a year. “I pretty much write post-apocalyptic science fiction,” he said.

He gets inspiration from his previous profession as a disaster mitigation specialist with Iowa Homeland Security and Emergency Management. He said, “It not only inspired me but scared me, and I was able to use that experience on different disasters or threats that we face to implement those in stories and then I used a sci-fi twist.’

He started writing as a hobby until his second book Orbs went viral. “It sold about 30,000 copies, pretty much in a couple months. And that`s what led me to an agent, some audio deals, Simon Schuster came in, and they wanted to buy the rights to a series. That ended up being a three-book deal and launched me into the traditional publishing world,” he said.

The New York Times Bestselling Author has published more than twenty books with another four currently in the works.

Link to the rest at WHO TV

Tokenism in Books Led a Father to Self-Publish Stories for His Mixed-Race Sons.

From The BBC:

Suhmayah Banda, from Penarth, Vale of Glamorgan, said he wanted to write stories that “would allow my kids to see characters that look like them”.

A report for the Book Trust said one third of black, Asian, and minority ethnic (BAME) authors and illustrators in the UK self-publish.

That compares with 11% of white authors and illustrators.

“As a family we read a lot together, and there are so many varied characters out there – animals, monsters, cars, firemen,” said Mr Banda, who is originally from Cameroon.

“But when it comes to ethnically diverse, in my case black or mixed characters, there is just not that much choice out there.”

A study by the Centre for Literacy in Primary Education in 2017 found only 1% of children’s books published that year in the UK had a BAME main character, and only 4% included BAME background characters.

The 2011 census found 14% of people in England and Wales were non-white. In Wales the figure was 4.5%.

. . . .

[O]ne of the catalysts for his first story was a comment Tancho made after reading a book in school.

“He came home from school one day and told me that people in Africa don’t have water in their houses. And as an African, and a Cameroonian specifically, I was a little surprised,” he said.

“I was like, ‘Really? All of Africa?’…there are a lot of people who have and don’t have things everywhere in the world, so I didn’t like that generalisation.

“Books are the first exposure a lot of kids and adults have to the wider world. And if those books are always written to the same narrative, in many cases misleading or wrong narratives, then it is dangerous on a lot of levels.

“And I wanted to expose my kids, and hopefully others, to a lot more perspectives.”

. . . .

Mr Banda, whose day-to-day job is in IT, is sceptical about efforts in the publishing industry to improve representation.

“They have a lot of competitions going on about promoting diversity. I find them flawed at best….

“You end up having a black or ethnically diverse character put in a story that doesn’t really reflect their reality. A lot of the time that is just tokenism,” he added.

. . . .

Aimee Felone, who co-founded publishing company Knights Of, shares Mr Banda’s frustration with much of the sector.

The company’s starting point was to hire “as widely and diversely as possible to make sure the books we publish give windows into as many worlds as possible”.

It has just published its first novel, a children’s murder mystery where the detectives are two young black sisters in London and, in October, they will be publishing a story about a character who is hard of hearing.

They purposefully chose a deaf editor to work on it, to make sure the story was “genuine and authentic”.

. . . .

In her view, the approach of the industry to BAME stories often grouped together non-white people from different backgrounds.

“I think what is missed is that there are different challenges that are faced within each community,” she said.

“We’re not looking at representations of Asian women, Chinese women [for example], we’re just putting everyone together in one box [and saying] ‘Oh look we have a BAME character’.

“What does that actually mean? Whose story are we actually telling?”

Link to the rest at The BBC

PG is skeptical that traditional publishing can move beyond tokenism given the background of 99% of its employees ranging from unpaid interns to the CEO. Of course, traditional publishing also deals with traditional book stores which have the same problems.

PG suggests the possibility that indie authors who self-publish may be the only avenue by which authentic voices can actually reach readers.

How Grifters Gamed Amazon to Sell the ‘Mueller Report’ Already

From The Daily Beast:

Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s long-awaited report on the Trump campaign will be released Thursday, the Justice Department announced Monday. Like all public reports, the document will be free to read.

That hasn’t stopped people from trying to sell Mueller report books on Amazon for months.

Amazon’s book listings are an SEO cesspool where grifters try to peddle ebooks on every trending topic. In recent months, self-published works on the anti-vaccination and QAnon conspiracy theories have soared in Amazon’s ratings. So as readers clamored to see the full Mueller report, publishing houses and self-published authors rushed to sell books on the still-unpublished document.

Alan Dershowitz, the celebrity lawyer and frequent Fox News guest, has not read the Mueller report yet. No one has, aside from Mueller’s team of investigators and Attorney General William Barr. But for more than a month, Dershowitz and the publishing house Skyhorse have been selling a book with the full text of the report, plus a foreword from Dershowitz.

. . . .

“There has never been a more important political investigation than Robert S. Mueller III’s into President Donald Trump’s possible collusion with Russia,” a product description for Dershowitz’s book reads. “His momentous findings can be found here.”

Of course, Dershowitz can’t write a foreword for a report he hasn’t read, and Skyhorse can’t publish the still-unreleased report’s text. Instead, Skyhorse has advertised the book on Amazon for more than a month, moving its anticipated release date back as weeks pass. The publisher now advertises as “placeholder” release date of April 30. (It was originally March 26.)

The flexible release date hasn’t stopped buyers from pre-ordering Dershowitz’s book. Amazon currently lists it as the “#1 Best Seller” in “federal jurisdictional law” category.

. . . .

Melville House, a Brooklyn-based publisher, is one of several outlets to reformat these reports as books worth buying. The publisher did brisk business selling physical copies of the Senate Intelligence Committee Report on Torture, repackaging the dense report as a readable paperback. Melville House is one of several publishers promising to sell physical copies of the Mueller report as soon as it can get the text through the printing presses.

But the crush of Mueller report titles on Amazon can leave smaller publishers scrambling to differentiate their reprints of the public report. One such book promises to be an “exclusive edition of Robert Mueller’s full-length report” and “the first to contain” a selection of accompanying documents. Other Amazon titles offer breathless praise for the yet-to-be-seen document. “History may judge The Mueller Report as the most important document of our time,” reads the product description of a Mueller report book with introductions by two former congressmen.

. . . .

Empty gag books like these, which hope to climb Amazon’s charts by latching on to popular search terms, are relatively common. In 2017, a blank 266-page book called Reasons to Vote for Democrats reached the top spot on Amazon’s book charts.

Link to the rest at The Daily Beast

PG thinks Amazon is tarnishing its brand by not working to stem this sort of activity. It has to be hurting legit indie authors.

Why Print Is the Future (And Always Was) for Some Books

From Douglas Bonneville via The Book Designer:

It’s been nine years since I published my first graphic design book, The Big Book of Font Combinations, as a 370-page PDF. What started out great in the digital realm slowly eroded over a period of years due to piracy, plagiarism, the changing nature of websites, and the constantly shifting rules and best practices of search engine optimization (SEO).

Late last year it became clear it was time to let go of the digital past and embrace the analog future. But not just any analog future, I’m talking about the digital analog future.

. . . .

I was always an artist, even from a very young age. I drew constantly and drawing came to define my youth and, later, my career. In middle school I found a book of typography in the school library—a big book filled with all kinds of typeface specimens. I copied and traced fonts right out of that book, and went on to find other books like it.

I had a penchant for drawing words out of made-up fonts. As I headed to art school, I bought an Amiga computer and color printer in 1988 when it was not exactly cheap, because I wanted to use its graphic design and typographic capabilities. The question on that computer, and on all since then, has been, “What fonts do I have?”

After college I got into desktop publishing, learned QuarkXpress at Kinko’s on a Mac Quadra I was never going to be able to afford to buy back then. Then I discovered Aldus PageMaker, and between all the apps and computers I had access to, I was always designing something for someone.

In the mid-nineties I worked with a English professor to start what used to be called a “vanity press”. I worked on books for a variety of academics who had no other alternative to getting their books produced. PageMaker—by this time owned by Adobe—was the go-to application for all my work, along with Adobe Acrobat and Adobe Type Manager. I got really good at book production and printing, mastered the preparation of art for printing, and really enjoyed the whole process immensely.

I got into web design at this time, and it seemed the self-publishing world was being swallowed by the nascent web by 1995. I sold the publishing company and went digital. Again, the question was still, “What fonts do I have?”.

. . . .

After I watched blogging take off, I realized I could contribute some of what I had learned, and started BonFX.com in 2009. One of the early posts I wrote was about font combinations. My early days with the huge Adobe PageMaker manual led me to really, really like how the typefaces Minion and Myriad worked together, not only in the PageMaker manual I was studying, but for all of Adobe’s literature, manuals, PDFs, and so on.

I wanted to create a go-to set of font combinations I could use to jump-start a project. This blog post, “19 Top Font Combinations” focused on combining classic fonts with themselves.

The post was a hit, it got retweeted by some influencers, and suddenly I had a ton of traffic on this one post, and a PDF that was downloaded thousands of times.

. . . .

If people liked the PDF so much, I thought, why not go big or go home? Using Adobe InDesign, I created a huge collection based on the same idea: classic typefaces mixed with other classic typefaces. It turned out it was faster to flip through a book than it was to fiddle with finicky font managers.

I used InDesign master pages to create reusable layers of fonts that lined up perfectly as I reused and stacked them across all the pages. This method made a 400–500 page book very feasible to create.

. . . .

However, all was not puppies and kittens. A couple of years after it was published, I started seeing pirated copies of the PDF showing up in Google. Every single time, it was on one of these shady “eBook” scraping sites with no contact information, hokey-sounding domains, replete with clearly stolen PDFs and eBooks.

No electronic book was safe. 

This piracy affected sales, and just a couple years in, I was very disillusioned, and the follow-up books I had planned on were likely never going to happen.

. . . .

Even in 2010, I could have gone ebook instead of PDF, right? Well yes, but no. Not every type of book works on a Kindle. The Big Book of Font Combinations (BBOFC) was one of those. It is an 8.5” x 11” book where each page would have to be a JPG or PNG image.

At the size of your average Kindle, it would be useless—just a grey smudge across every page. And, even if Kindles were huge (like the discontinued big one Amazon made for a while), it would still defeat the purpose of wanting to create something that was quick to browse. Coffee tables books are meant to be flipped through asynchronously, and to be delightfully browsable. The BBOFC was more like a coffee table book, or a phone book, than anything else.

. . . .

I did work on getting the BBOFC into Amazon’s early print on demand (POD) program. I got the cover designed to spec, reshuffled the layouts, and filled out all the required metadata. None of these tasks were fun or quick.

The PDF version had been produced as a single-page document. The print version had to be set up for facing page spreads with appropriate gutter margins, which meant touching every element on every page to adjust its position—by hand.

After I got all the boxes checked off, all the fields filled in, and all the files uploaded, I was finally ready to hit the “Preview” button in KDP.

“Sorry, your book was rejected due to use of placeholder text”.

What? Yes, the BBOFC was automatically rejected by the KDP pre-flighting check because it contained the following text: “Lorem Ipsum Dolor.” On every page.

“Lorem” is text taken from an old work of classic literature that was written in Latin. For over 500 years typesetters have used it to set blocks of type as they design a book to test things like the look of the typeface, margins, other page elements, and so on. Since font combinations are the focus, not the text, I did not want to see “The quick brown fox…” 370 times.

. . . .

In 2018 while researching the use of POD for fine art and illustrations, both Amazon and IngramSpark came up, and I was hearing very different things about these services than I had heard in the past. Quality was way up, costs were down, people were not just happy, but in some cases really happy. I was intrigued and started to feel hopeful about books once again.

My wife and I got a little excited (again). And then we bit hard. She thoroughly researched the landscape for all the POD solutions and services available, and became convinced that a POD combined publishing solution based on Amazon KPD Print and IngramSpark was not only viable, it was tested, sure-footed, and smart.

Could we kill off “digital-only” for our specific type of book and go “digital-analog” with not only our font book, but with the other graphic design books we had held in our queue so long?

The answer was yes.

Link to the rest at The Book Designer

Terry Maggert Loves to Put ‘Easter Eggs’ with Iowa References in His Many Novels

From The Cedar Rapids Gazette:

Author Terry Maggert is reaching his stride in the self-publishing world. By early 2020 Maggert, who will be doing a reading Friday at M & M Books in Cedar Rapids, will be well on his way to having more than 40 novels published under his own name and his pseudonym, Daniel Pierce. With strong roots in the science fiction and fantasy realms, Maggert has touched on many of the subgenres under that big umbrella and is always looking for more opportunities to put out quality books for readers to enjoy.

Maggert lives in Tennessee with his wife, son, and a number of rescue animals, including about 19 cats and an opossum. Maggert’s roots can be traced back to northeast Iowa. His father’s family lived in Pony Hollow, which was near Elkader.

Maggert fondly refers to Iowa his ancestral home and visits the state on a regular basis.

. . . .

Iowa makes many appearances in Maggert’s novels.

“I love Easter eggs,” Maggert explained. Easter eggs are hidden messages in media and named as such because they are hidden, like eggs on Easter, for the reader or viewer to discover. “I love inserting Easter eggs from my own personal history. There is always something about Iowa in every book that I write. I wrote a dragon book called ‘Banshee’ (2015). It’s post-apocalyptic novel, and there’s a dragon in it called el-Kader and the guy who rides him is my dad.”

The city of Elkader, the hometown of Maggert’s father, is named after Abd el-Kader, an Algerian hero who led the resistance to French colonialism in the mid-1800s.

. . . .

“When my friends read ‘Banshee,’ they say, ‘That’s your dad!’ They know immediately, and they can hear him speaking.” It’s details like this that bring joy to Terry’s writing life. “That’s one of the reasons I love being a writer because I get to relive my own life in these little details. I feel in some ways it is helping me to maintain my own memories.”

Link to the rest at The Cedar Rapids Gazette

The Uk’s Selfies Award Announces Its First Self-Published Shortlist

From Publishing Perspectives:

At this time of year, shortlists, longlists, and calls for submissions swirl like snow showers up and down the UK. And a new book awards program today (February 5) is adding to the wintry mix something almost as distinctive as the proverbial snowflake’s design: the Selfies Awards has announced its first set of self-published finalists.

Produced by BookBrunch in association with the London Book Fairand the public relations and author services company Bookollective and IngramSpark, the Selfies represent the judges’ choice of a work of fiction self-published in 2018.

. . . .

In an interesting reflection of the task of self-publishing, the prize recognizes not only quality of writing but also, per the program’s media messaging, “the cover design, blurb and sales and marketing campaigns too,” a reminder of the breadth of activity demanded by self-publishing. And this was communicated to authors entering their work by describing the criteria beyond the writing as (quoting the organizers):

  • A well produced ebook or print book
  • An enticing cover and blurb that successfully addresses the target audience
  • An effective and creative marketing and publicity strategy
  • Great sales potential

. . . .

Those familiar with the ALLi community will recognize some of the authors whose work now appears on the Selfies’ inaugural list. The program has opened with submissions limited to adult fiction titles, but organizers have said they expect to expand the award to cover more categories in the future. Entries are limited to authors “based in the UK who are predominantly or only self-published, ie where the author themselves acted as the publisher and/or creative director.” Short stories and unfinished works are not accepted for consideration.

The winner of the Selfies 2019 will be awarded £1,500 (US$1,952) plus a special self-publishing package from the sponsoring IngramSpark for a next book. In addition, Bookollective will offer the winner a customized book cover design created by Aimee Coveney and a book publicity campaign that the company says is worth £1000 (US$1,301).

. . . .

The Selfies 2019 Shortlist

Link to the rest at Publishing Perspectives

Takeaways for Merchants from Amazon q4 Earnings

From eCommerce Bytes:

Amazon released earnings on Thursday, and there were some takeaways about third-party merchant sales, changes in seller fees, Amazon delivery, advertising, and upcoming investment in fulfillment center capacity.

Amazon grew 2018 fourth quarter sales 20% to $72.4 billion. Sales for North America in the 4th quarter of 2018 were up 18% year-over-year; sales for International were up 19% FX-neutral; and sales for its AWS cloud web-hosting business was up 46% FX-neutral.

. . . .

“The better-than-expected fourth-quarter results, backed by strong holiday sales, comes as investors fret about decelerating growth following two straight quarters of disappointing revenue. Sales climbed 19.7 percent in the latest quarter, which was faster than the 18.8 percent expected, but still the slowest since the first quarter of 2015.”

. . . .

Amazon said third-party sales grew faster than first-party sales. It also called out the fact in its earnings press release, where it stated that nearly 200,000 small and medium-sized businesses surpassed $100,000 in sales in Amazon’s stores in 2018.

. . . .

Amazon said third-party sellers are an important part of its value proposition – “they’ve had great success on our site, more than half of our units sold are from third-party sellers.” Amazon said it would always be evolving that business, including adding new fees or subtracting existing fees. “We generally work to change the fees to make sure that the incentives are strong on both sides and we continue to have a healthy growth in third party.”

. . . .

The company continues to expand its Amazon logistics and delivery capability and it also matches up with the faster ship speed for Prime members. “We have over 100 million items that customers could get within two days, but there’s now over 3 million that will be delivered within one day or faster in 10,000 cities and town.”

Amazon deliveries are a big part of that. Often it costs the same or less as using its outside shipping partners. Amazon invests selectively because it has more perfect information about where demand is and how it’s moving items – “by not involving third parties all the time, we can find that we can extend our order cut offs.”

Asked about advertising revenue, Amazon said it was focused on evolving tools and services for agencies and advertisers to make it easier for companies to grow – “we’re continually excited about the opportunity there.” It said it was working on making smarter recommendations as well as addressing the needs of brands.

Link to the rest at eCommerce Bytes

PG has recently noticed more deliveries by people wearing Amazon shirts arriving at Casa PG.

It’s early days for Amazon’s delivery service, but the appearance of the Amazon delivery persons carries a distinctly more “temp hire” vibe than the UPS or Fedex folks.

Raleigh Author Who Self-Published Best-Selling Book Lands Movie Deal for 4

From ABC11:

Raleigh-based businessman A.G. Riddle had no writing experience when he was inspired to write a book.

Riddle was working as a tech consultant, helping to get Internet startups off the ground, when he decided to take a chance and write and self-publish his first book, “The Atlantis Gene” in March 2013.

“My first book was almost completely homemade,” Riddle said. “I wrote the book, did my own edits and then my mom edited the book; she was a retired eighth-grade English teacher, and I made the cover myself. It was OK, the current covers are a lot better.

“In March of 2013, I put it out there, my now-wife put it on Facebook and hounded her friends to read this book,” he added. “That’s how it sort of got started.”

Riddle self-published “The Atlantis Gene” through Kindle Direct Publishing (KDP) and said being able to self-publish gave him more control of his new career.

“Writing the first one is certainly the toughest, but there’s never been a better time to release your novel, in my opinion,” he said.

“The Atlantis Gene” became the first book of “The Origin Mystery,” a trilogy that has sold more than 2 million copies in the United States. Riddle released his fourth novel, “Departure” in the fall of 2015. “Departure” follows the survivors of a flight that takes off in the present and crash-lands in a changed world. 20th Century Fox is developing “Departure” for a feature film. Several of his books have been picked up for film development.

“So, four of them are an option for feature films, so we’ll see where that goes,” Riddle said.

Link to the rest at ABC11






Wall Street Journal Comments

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

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