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

A tale of two authors

From the Elk River (Minnesota) Star-News:

Two award-winning Minnesota authors shared their paths to publication during a recent program at the Elk River Library.

Lizbeth Selvig had a career as a magazine editor before becoming an author, while B. K. Parent was a school psychologist who never intended to write a book.

. . . .

Selvig has a degree in journalism from the University of Minnesota and was a newspaper journalist and the editor of a small agricultural magazine before becoming a published author of contemporary romances.

But the urge to write began much earlier, as she has been writing fiction since she was 11 years old.

Later, as her children were growing up, Selvig spent about 15 years writing her first novel. She wrote another novel after moving to Alaska for three years in 2005.

Her big break came after she won a Romance Writers of America Golden Heart award.

“That got me an agent and then she got me a contract with Avon Books,” Selvig said. “I wrote seven books for them.”

. . . .

B.K. Parent never planned to write a book.

A retired school psychologist who also serves as mayor of her city, Parent started writing fiction after delivering her niece’s college roommate to a summer job on the Gunflint Trail in northern Minnesota. The pair had taken a side trip to Thunder Bay, Ontario, and on the way spotted the word “Neebing.”

“We decided that they were small, furry, elusive and mischievous, but basically tender-hearted, and got to giggling about Neebings,” Parent said. “The next morning, at a truck stop for breakfast, we were drawing what we thought Neebings looked like.”

After Parent dropped the young woman off at her job, she decided to write a story about Neebings and send it to her.

“So I sat down to write a short story about Neebings and wrote Chapter 1 of ‘Journey’s Middle,’” Parent said.

She sent her a chapter every Monday, with a cliffhanger at the end of each one.

Parent kept writing after her young friend returned to college. When she was encouraged to self-publish the stories she did so, thinking she’d just give them to relatives.

“That’s how it all started,” Parent said.

Her sixth book came out this summer and she is now working on her seventh. She still writes a chapter a week.

Link to the rest at the Elk River Star-News



Control Or Creativity?

From Fiction Notes:

Who’s in control of the publishing process? Once the contract is signed, does the author have any say in what happens to the story? Traditional contracts specify that the publishing company will publish as they see fit. In other words, control is given to the publisher by the contract.

. . . .

One criticism of indie authors is that [they] are control freaks. Indeed, many indies will say that control is one of their main issues in choosing how to publish. And that’s seen in a disparaging light, as if the indie author isn’t a team player. From this perspective, the indie author doesn’t understand of the publishing process. Editors edit, illustrators provide the art, and each does their professional jobs as part of a team. An author’s professional job stops when the text is finished.

Let’s examine this issue of “control” in the publishing process. To do that, I want to look at an interview on Terri Gross’s Fresh Air NPR program with Marielle Heller, director of “A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood.”

Hard to believe in your point of view?

Talking about directing a film, Gross asks, “Was it ever hard for you to believe in your point of view?”

Heller responds by talking about moving from an actor to a director.

“But as I started directing, it felt incredibly natural to me more because as an actor, I sort of always felt like I was holding my tongue. Like, when you’re an actor, you’re not supposed to get involved in certain things. You’re not supposed to get involved in every discussion, you know? Like, even if I was acting in a play, and it was a new play, and we were discussing how a scene was working or not working, you know, the director and the playwright might be discussing whether a scene’s working or not. But as an actor, you’re not really supposed to get involved in that conversation. You’re sort of there to do your work.

            And I was – I spent a lot of years when I was working as an actor doing theater kind of holding my tongue where I wanted to be involved in those bigger creative discussions, but I knew it wasn’t my place. And when I started directing, it was like, oh, great. Now I get to actually be involved in all of the deeper creative discussions and figure these things out and the problem-solving of storytelling.

Traditional publishing treats authors similar to Heller experience as an actor. She wasn’t supposed to be involved in the larger discussions, just do the acting and keep quiet. Likewise, publishers make storytelling and marketing decisions without the author’s input. The unspoken comment is that the publishers/editors know best. The unspoken attitude is that the author doesn’t have anything useful to add to the bigger conversation.

. . . .

For me, and for many other indie authors, self-publishing is a way to become a director of our own stories, to be involved in the “deeper creative discussion and figure these things out and the problem-solving of storytelling.”

. . . .

As an indie author-publisher, I enjoy the problem-solving involved in turning a story into a picture book. Like Heller directing a film, I enjoy choosing an illustrator and dividing text into page breaks. The Nantucket Sea Monster: A Fake New Story had a great possibility for a dramatic page turn. This is the story of a publicity stunt about a balloon created for the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day parade. People on Nantucket Island are looking for the sea monster.

The text says, “They couldn’t believe their eyes.” This is a good place for a dramatic page turn.

. . . .

I asked the illustrator to set up the page turn followed by a wordless page that showed the sea monster’s face up-close. At first, he didn’t understand the reason for the wordless spread. But it’s one of the most effective page turns of the book. The text sets up the sea monster’s face close up, which enthralls the reader. However, it’s so close up that the reader is still slightly overwhelmed and doesn’t understand the bigger picture. Zooming in so close reveals and hides at the same time. The next page-turn finally resolves the issue by explaining the sea monster is a rubber balloon, and showing that from a distance. The sequence makes the story more exciting and keeps the reader’s interest.

Exciting page turns and storytelling pacing are just some of the creative storytelling discussions that now dominate my time. As a traditional author, I was mostly excluded from the decisions, but now, I’m responsible for those very decisions.

Link to the rest at Fiction Notes

For PG, one of the strangest tribal practices of many traditional publishers is to eliminate the author from the types of creative discussions mentioned in the OP. On many more than one occasion, such an exclusion has resulted in a book that included an inappropriate cover or the removal of a character that changed the nature of the book.

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

How to Fight the Commoditization of Books

By Mark Coker via Publishers Weekly:

The mere thought is at once repulsive and terrifying: books as commodities. After all, a book is the original divine creation of its author, right?

We typically think of commodities as undifferentiated products such as corn or wheat. To a consumer looking for flavor and nutrition, one kernel of corn is the same as another. Though higher-quality corn can command premium prices, the price ceiling is ultimately determined by what the market is willing to pay for a given product.

In this respect, books are similar to any other commodity. Books are delivery vehicles for reading pleasure. Although each book is unique, the primary reason readers purchase books—reading pleasure—can be measured and commoditized.

If we divide the hours of reading pleasure one book offers by its price, we can create a simple metric: cost per hour of reading pleasure. This metric allows one book’s pleasure-delivery potential to be compared to another’s.

Readers are unlikely to consciously intellectualize their cost per hour of reading pleasure. Yet this metric guides consumer behavior much as gravity guides water to flow downhill. In a marketplace of interchangeable options for pleasure, consumers will gravitate toward the best-quality option with the lowest price, whether that quality is measured by brand, average review, or word of mouth.

How low can prices go? With agricultural commodities, the price floor is ultimately determined by the cost of production. If farmers can’t turn profits at the given market rate for their products, they stop producing those products. When farmers stop growing, supply decreases. This then causes prices to stabilize or increase to the point where new growers are incentivized to enter the market.

For decades now, most writers—even traditionally published writers—have maintained day jobs to make ends meet. This means authors are personally subsidizing the publishing industry by continuing to write books that don’t pay the bills.

Would we expect farmers to work for free? Certainly not. Yet many writers will continue writing even if there’s no money in it. Though one writer may write for the joy of writing and another to afford groceries, both require readers. And price is often the determining factor for finding readers.

. . . .

Kindle Unlimited causes significant devaluation on two fronts:

1. Amazon is training the world’s largest community of readers to expect five-star reading experiences for what feels like free. This makes readers reluctant to pay for books, which harms sales.

2. Because Kindle Unlimited decouples book price from author compensation, it means that Amazon has stripped authors of pricing power and can pay them less.

. . . .

2. Don’t underprice: readers will pay for quality. The e-book sweet spots for quality bestselling full-length indie fiction are typically $3.99 and $4.99, and $7.99 to $9.99 are good prices for quality nonfiction.

3. Avoid exclusivity. When indie authors make their books exclusive anywhere—even for a short time—it undermines their ability to build readership at other stores. Exclusivity makes the author vulnerable to exploitation when a single retailer controls the author’s access to readers. True independent authors publish, price, and promote with complete freedom.

Link to the rest at Publishers Weekly

PG says it’s a bear competing with Amazon.

The market value of an item is what a willing buyer will pay a willing seller for a book.

If market demand is elastic, the supply will adjust itself to the demand created by prospective purchasers.

PG suggests that Kindle Unlimited is wonderful for less-known authors because buyers don’t have to risk any money to see if they like what the author has written.

The factors governing the ebook market is different than the printed book market because, in the ebook market all the author’s (or publisher’s) costs to create the product are incurred upfront. Once an ebook is created, for the author, the direct costs of selling one ebook are the same as the direct costs of selling one million books.

Amazon incurs some per-unit ebook costs in the form of server time, credit card processing fees, etc., but for someone who is already running the world’s largest server farm selling zillions of different products, the incremental costs of selling a single ebook are the tiniest drop in an enormous ocean. For the cost of sending a single printed book to a customer who takes advantage of free Prime shipping, PG suspects Amazon could sell and deliver hundreds of ebooks to customers.

On a couple of specific points Mark makes in the OP:

Because Kindle Unlimited decouples book price from author compensation, it means that Amazon has stripped authors of pricing power and can pay them less.

Authors are not stripped of anything with Kindle Unlimited. They can price their ebooks pretty much any way they want to on Amazon, subject only (as far as PG knows) Amazon’s overall $200 max price for ebooks on KDP.

If PG writes a wonderful ebook for which he decides to charge $99 for each copy, he can do so. If a purchaser believes PG’s written ramblings are worth $99 or more, PG has demonstrated he has the pricing power to sell his book for $99 to an unknown quantity of readers numbering greater than one.

Pricing power in an open market is determined by supply and demand. Does the purchaser want $99 more than she wants PG’s book or does she want PG’s book more than $99? If PG prices his book at $1.00, the purchaser’s decision analysis is the same with $1.00 substituted for $99.

With respect to Amazon and authors, if Amazon can attract the kinds and quantities of books its customers are willing to purchase by paying an author 50 cents, why would a rational author expect that Amazon should pay more?

Traditional publishers and bookstores are a far less sophisticated system for determining optimum pricing than Amazon is. Their pricing decisions are pretty much a shot in the dark. For one thing, they’re dealing with thousands of different books and authors. They’re not set up to find the optimum price for any single book because they can’t pay as much attention to sales results for a single book as the author of that book can.

If Author A writes a 300-page romance novel that 50,000 readers are willing to pay $8.99 to acquire and Author B writes a 300-page romance that 50,000 readers are willing to pay $1.99 for, how likely is it that the publisher/physical bookstore will price each book at an optimal manner? If the publisher/bookstore releases each romance at a retail price of $4.99, Author A and Author B will both have lower royalties than each would have had with optimal pricing.

Whatever pricing power publishers and traditional bookstores have does not benefit any individual author. Rather these players use their pricing power to maximize prices from a large group of books. Ultimately, they don’t care if Author A sells many more books priced at $4.99 than Author B sells for the same price so long as the total take from all books, including those from Author C through Author Z, meet the store’s and the publisher’s sales and profit objectives.

PG says some authors will always make more money from their books than other authors do. However, Amazon has developed a much, much more sophisticated and powerful system for determining the optimum sales price of an author’s books than any publisher or bookstore has.

If the author permits Amazon to set the price of a book at zero under Kindle Unlimited and the author is satisfied with the amount of royalties the book generates, is the author treated unfairly?

The author is not permanently locked into Kindle Unlimited (unlike an author dealing with a traditional publisher), so the author is free to withdraw the book from Kindle Unlimited (and KDP Select) every 90 days and engage in more price experimentation through Kindle or through Smashwords.

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






Amazon Is Dooming New Yiddish Publications. Can It Be Stopped?

From Forward:

In 2005, Internet giant Amazon swallowed up yet another smaller fish, the self-publishing company CreateSpace, which made it possible to market titles in dozens of languages. Last year, in a decision that you would be forgiven for missing, Amazon announced that CreateSpace was merging with another division: Kindle Direct Publishing, now known as KDP. One Amazon province cannibalizes another. Nothing new there.

But it turns out that this move might endanger the important and unique realm of new Yiddish prose — a forum particularly important to Hasidim since a book released by CreateSpace can be publicized affordably, and sold on Amazon without the author giving his real name. (In the Hasidic community, anonymity is useful and even necessary online). Hasidic blogger Katle Kanye, one of the Forward 50 and often mentioned in the Yiddish Forward, chose CreateSpace to publish his sharp critique of what he says is the failed Chasidic education system.

Another Hasidic forum for self-expression in Yiddish is the online journal Der Veker, or The Alarm, a publication aimed at Hasidim who want to read about sensitive topics. In other Hasidic publications these topics might be censored or not discussed at all.

. . . .

Moving CreateSpace to KDP has made it impossible to self-publish titles on Amazon in a number of languages that used to be available, including Yiddish and Hebrew. Without CreateSpace, it becomes prohibitive for small periodicals written in minority languages, like Der Veker, to keep publishing.

. . . .

Why did the language selection change when CreateSpace merged with KDP? It’s not clear. Even years ago, when there were several separate divisions of Amazon devoted to self-publishing, each had its list of permissible languages which were technically possible. One should also note that other languages written right-to-left, like Arabic, are still publishing options on KDP. Why Arabic and not Yiddish, Hebrew, or other languages? It seems plausible that larger languages are economically and culturally valued by Amazon, while minority languages are left in the dust.

Reached by the Forverts, an Amazon spokesperson responded: “We are aware that because certain CreateSpace languages are not yet available on KDP, some authors and readers will be unable to publish and read new titles in those languages (all previous titles remain available). We are actively reviewing author and reader feedback to evaluate which features and services we offer in the future, including expanding KDP’s supported languages.”

Link to the rest at Forward

The issue described in the OP was completely absent from PG’s radar prior to his reading the article.

Without knowing details, he wonders if Amazon may have problems finding enough employees who are fluent in some languages to review POD books for errors of various types or for content that violates KDP’s Terms of Service.

PG will be interested to see how this matter plays out.

100% Diy: Interview with Cellist Zoë Keating

From Indie Digital Media:

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

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

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

. . . .

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

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

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

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

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

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

. . . .

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

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

. . . .

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

Link to the rest at Indie Digital Media

Wall Street Journal Comments

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

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

From the Worcester, Massachusetts Telegram:

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

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

Susan Lubner

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

. . . .

Edward “Nick” Zwirblia

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Link to the rest at the Telegram

Six Myths  (and a Few Facts) About Traditional Publishing

From BookBaby Blog:

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

Myth #1: Traditional publishers serve as “gatekeepers”

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

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

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

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

. . . .

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

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

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

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

. . . .

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

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

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

Link to the rest at BookBaby Blog

Draft2Digital, Baker & Taylor, and OverDrive

From Indies Unlimited:

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

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

. . . .

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

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

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

. . . .

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

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

Link to the rest at Indies Unlimited

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

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

Finishing the Formatting

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

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

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

Why I’m Taking a Break from Writing Books

From Jeff Rivera:

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

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

Then, everything changed.

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

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

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

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

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

. . . .

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

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

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

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

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

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

What’s the Matter with Fiction Sales?

From Publishers Weekly:

According to 2017 estimates released this summer by the Association of American Publishers, sales of adult fiction fell 16% between 2013 and 2017, from $5.21 billion to $4.38 billion. The numbers, though not a major worry, raise questions about the books the industry is publishing and what consumers want to read.

Since 2013, fiction sales fell every year with the exception of 2015. That year they rose 1%, helped by Harper Lee’s Go Set a Watchman and three other novels that topped one million print copies sold. (The AAP tracks all major formats—print, digital, and audio—in its sales estimates.) Interviews and discussions with various industry members uncovered different theories about why there’s been a downturn in fiction.

The most commonly shared view is that it has become extremely difficult to generate exposure for novels. Fiction, more than nonfiction, depends on readers discovering new books by browsing. Now, with the number of physical stores down from five years ago (despite a rise in ABA membership), publishers cannot rely on bricks-and-mortar stores providing customers with access to new books.

Nor can publishers depend on media outlets to make up for the gap left by the shrinking footprint of physical bookstores. Review space in mainstream media has been slashed, cutting off another possibility for readers to learn about new fiction.

The upshot of those developments is that publishers have found breaking out new writers—never mind developing new franchise authors—increasingly difficult.

Creating authors who can draw readers via name recognition alone is crucial to selling novels. Research done by the Codex Group shows that the author is the most important factor in a person’s decision to buy a novel. Codex founder Peter Hildick-Smith says that with so much inexpensive genre fiction now available at “subprime price points under $5” (from such channels as Kindle Unlimited), publishers must invest to develop brand name authors who can command premium-price loyalty.

That process can require a multiple-book commitment. It can also require a type of commitment that’s difficult for publishers: sticking with authors who don’t produce instant bestsellers.

Based on Codex research, a person typically reads an average of three books by an author before becoming hooked on his or her books. Publishers, however, as Hildick-Smith and others interviewed noted, seem increasingly reluctant to support authors whose books don’t immediately sell. “Creating a dependable, bestselling author is a multibook investment that requires different strategies and great persistence,” Hildick-Smith said. “It’s not a one-and-done launch.”

The difficulty publishers have recently had in creating brand name authors can be seen in BookScan numbers. The service, which tracks only print sales, shows that fiction sales continue to be soft. Moreover, the BookScan figures show that no fiction title topped one million copies sold in 2016 or 2017 at outlets that report to the service. In 2015, the only year in the past five when fiction sales rose over the previous year, four novels sold more than one million print copies each, according to BookScan: Watchman (1.6 million), Grey by E.L. James (1.4 million), The Girl on the Train by Paula Hawkins (1.3 million), and Anthony Doer’s All The Light We Cannot See (one million).

Link to the rest at Publishers Weekly

Attentive readers will note the single mention of Amazon – Kindle Unlimited, associated with “subprime price points under $5”. Traditional publishers can’t and won’t compete in that market, preferring authors and books with “premium-price loyalty”.

PG suggests that category title is not properly worded. Instead, he believes that traditional publishers are trying to promote authors and books that attempt to command “over-priced loyalty” from readers.

As readers come to understand that most of the money they pay for traditionally-published books goes to middle-folk like bookstores and publishers with very little trickling down to authors, their loyalty to premium pricing may erode.

How Instagram Saved Poetry

From The Atlantic:

Tom spent his days as a clerk, two floors below ground level in the cellars of Lloyds Bank. He worked in the foreign-transactions department from 9:15 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. each day, and in his free moments between filing and tabulating balance sheets, he wrote.

Tom was better known to the world as T. S. Eliot. By the time he started as a clerk in 1917, his most popular poem—The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock—had been published to great acclaim. But even then, despite his bank salary, the man who has often been called the greatest poet of the 20th century struggled to make ends meet. He accepted money from relatives to buy underwear and pajamas, and anxiety over his finances drove him to breakdowns.

.  .  .  .

Poetry has always been an art form, but it has rarely been a career even for the most legendary poets. William Carlos Williams was a doctor. Wallace Stevens was an insurance executive. Charles Bukowski held a bevy of odd jobs, including work as a dishwasher, a truck driver, a gas-station attendant, and a postal clerk. The poet’s story has long been one of a double life, split between two urgent duties: making a living and making art.

Rupi Kaur is a case study in how dramatically the world of poetry has changed since then. The 25-year-old Canadian poet outsold Homer two years ago: Her first collection, milk & honey, has been translated into 40 languages and has sold 3.5 million copies stealing the position of best-selling poetry book from The Odyssey.

Rupi Kaur is a case study in how dramatically the world of poetry has changed since then. The 25-year-old Canadian poet outsold Homer two years ago: Her first collection, milk & honey, has been translated into 40 languages and has sold 3.5 million copies, stealing the position of best-selling poetry book from The Odyssey.

Since the publication of milk & honey, the poetry genre has become one of the fastest-growing categories in book publishing. According to one market-research group, 12 of the top 20 best-selling poets last year were Insta-poets, who combined their written work with shareable posts for social media; nearly half of poetry books sold in the United States last year were written by these poets. This year, according to a survey conducted by the National Endowment for the Arts and the U.S. Census Bureau, 28 million Americans are reading poetry—the highest percentage of poetry readership in almost two decades. Kaur’s publisher, Kirsty Melville, has seen it happen firsthand: “It used to be that poetry was down in the back of the store next to the bathrooms, and now it’s out front,” she told us. “And that naturally helps sales of all poets. The classics and other contemporary poets are selling.”

. . . .

In 2010, the editor of n+1 magazine, Chad Harbach, famously wrote that there were two distinct and rival literary cultures in America: the institutional, university-driven M.F.A. track and the New York–centered publishing world. But now there is a third option: the fast-paced, democratizing, hyper-connected culture of the internet. The poets of this third category often have little formal training, and their publishers are strewn across the country. Andrews McMeel, for instance, is an indie publisher in Missouri. Social media seem to have cracked the walls around a field that has long been seen as highbrow, exclusive, esoteric, and ruled by tradition, opening it up for young poets with broad appeal, many of whom are women and people of color.

Social-media poets, using Instagram as a marketing tool, are not just artists—they’re entrepreneurs. They still primarily earn money through publication and live events, but sharing their work on Instagram is now what opens up the possibility for both. Kaur, the ultimate poet-entrepreneur, said she approaches poetry like “running a business.” A day in the life can consist of all-day writing, touring, or, perhaps unprecedented for a poet, time in the office with her team to oversee operations and manage projects.

Building their own mini brands, poets can harness e-commerce to supplement their income.

Link to the rest at The Atlantic

Amazon Shares a Selection of Customers’ Favorite Books from Indie Authors

From The Associated Press:

Hundreds of thousands of independent authors are finding their audiences through self-publishing with Kindle Direct Publishing (KDP). More than ever before, authors are reaching new readers directly and cultivating communities as they grow their writing careers on KDP. Readers also relish the value and entertainment from these authors. On average, 20% of books on this year’s Amazon Charts Top 20 weekly lists are self-published.

“We launched KDP in 2007 with the first Kindle, and since then hundreds of thousands of independent authors have chosen to self-publish their books, earning up to 70 percent of their royalties and retaining the life-long rights of their work,” said Charles Kronbach, Director of Independent Publishing Worldwide for Amazon. “In 2017, thousands of KDP authors earned more than $50,000 in royalties, and more than a thousand earned more than $100,000. We are inspired by the success of these writers and how they are delighting readers.”

Below is a curated list of top-selling books on Amazon from independent authors and why customers love them (average customer rating as of October 2018):

(Thriller). Overall rating: 4.3 stars. “Fantastic plot, characters, writing, etc. Can’t recommend it highly enough! I’m so glad this is the beginning of my new journey with this author and with Noah Wolf!!” – Amazon customer (Thriller). Overall rating: 4.6 stars. “I could hardly put this book down. First book I have read by John Ellsworth. I cannot wait to read more. Well written and holds your attention!” – Ann C (Romance). Overall rating: 4.6 stars. “I don’t know that I have ever laughed so much at a novel. This was a great read. It had me feeling all the feels in a happy and unique way.” – Kindle customer (Science Fiction & Fantasy). Overall rating: 4.8 stars. “Awesome….Exhilarating….Aleron takes you on a journey that transports you to a magical world with unlimited possibilities. These books are truly amazing. I can’t wait for more to come out.” – Frank (Mystery). Overall rating: 4.7 stars. “I just can’t say enough good things about Pratt’s writing style. He gets you hooked from the first chapter and before you know it the end is here all too soon. He’s a must-read author on the top of my list.” – MzCarrie (Romance). Overall rating: 4.8 stars. “Denise has done it again. The Rose Gardner and Neely Kate novels keep getting better and better. Definitely didn’t expect the twist in this one. Anyone who enjoys a strong female lead, humor, loyal friendships and romance needs to read these books!” – vic 55 (Suspense). Overall rating: 4.2 stars. “This book is full of action, mystery and suspense. I was on the edge of my seat waiting to see what would happen next. Great writing and characters. And of course it ends on a cliffhanger that has me itching to know what happens next.” – LeKeisha (Young Adult). Overall rating 4.8 stars. “This book deserves so many more than 5 stars. So emotional and moving. Ren and Della were so raw and touching…real. Gawww this book is now 1 of my very all-time favorites.” – Kelli B

Link to the rest at The Associated Press

The Indie Author–Indie Bookseller Relationship Warms Up

From Publishers Weekly:

Independent booksellers often talk about their tight bonds with their local communities, and, increasingly, one of the many ways in which they are engaging with those communities is by stocking self-published titles by local writers. For years, the libertarian and frequently contrarian nature of independent authors was at odds with the requirements of bricks-and-mortar indies; self-published authors were empowered by the emergence of online retailers that produced, published, and sold their works, and they didn’t consider how those books would be sold in physical stores. But the relationship between indie authors and indie bookstores has evolved, and numerous booksellers are willing to stock self-published titles—albeit within certain limitations. PW surveyed the members of BXsellers, our Facebook group for booksellers, to find out what criteria they apply to handling self-published work.

Jessica Stockton Bagnulo, co-owner of Greenlight Bookstore, which has two locations in Brooklyn, said she limits the selection of self-published books each store carries to authors who live nearby. “We do have certain requirements—the book must have the name on the spine, for example—and we have a six-month consignment policy, but we consider it a community service,” she wrote. “And some do end up taking off!”

. . . .

Megan Andrews Blackshear, co-owner of Bookbound in Ann Arbor, Mich., concurred. She sells only books by self-published authors who live in the store’s county and admitted that, though a handful of titles are “awesome” and have become Bookbound favorites, “a majority of these books do not sell a single copy.”

Several booksellers said that they will consider stocking an author once that author has demonstrated that he or she has readers. Victoria Roberts, operations manager at Hugo Bookstores in Massachusetts, wrote, “We consign self-published books but do not order them in unless they have a track record of success. If we sell a lot of your book on consignment, we would consider ordering from Ingram, but only if it is available at a full discount.”

. . . .

Claire Benedict, co-owner of Bear Pond Books in Montpelier, Vt., noted, “We have started to hold ‘How to Self-Publish Successfully’ educational events for authors. They’ve been very popular. Generally, we will carry a self-published book by a local author if its looks professional on consignment. For authors with a track record, we will buy them outright.”

One word of advice several booksellers shared for self-published authors: do not mention Amazon. Bear Pond’s Benedict wrote, “We do not carry Amazon-published books in our store, even for locals.”

Link to the rest at Publishers Weekly and thanks to Nate at The Digital Reader for the tip.

How the Brooklyn Literary Scene Is Striving to Be More Inclusive

From Electric Lit:

Publishing still isn’t an equal-opportunity space for people who aren’t white men — but at least we’re talking about it now. It’s hard to remember how limited and lonely the world felt before we reached our current level of cultural awareness of racial, gender, and sexual discrimination — when our discomfort with an all-white male literary panel might go completely unregistered, because outside of private conversations there wasn’t even a place to register it.

At the beginning of Brooklyn’s ascendancy as a literary place — with its rising concentration of writers, editors, publishers, and agents moving from all over to this one borough, and often even to just a handful of neighborhoods within the one borough — there was no guarantee that you would find the space, the reading series, the magazine, the press, the publisher here that represented you, where the work being featured might actually speak to you. And while these blind spots in the literary scene weren’t unique to Brooklyn, they were certainly represented here, and reinforced as well by the mainstream publishing industry that was based in Manhattan, a short subway ride away across the East River.

An entire decade later in 2010, when VIDA — a non-profit organization that gives an annual account of the number of men and women reviewed by or published in major literary magazines — released its first full report, the results showed a staggering gender imbalance across the publishing industry, numbers that on the whole haven’t greatly improved in the near-decade since. And yet, at the local level in Brooklyn between ’99 and 2010, change did come — slowly, painstakingly, and because of the action of individuals within the borough’s literary community. In this oral history we’re going to hear from some of those figures — curators, publishers, writers, and literary citizens — responsible for addressing the lack in Brooklyn’s literary scene, as they talk about what changed, how it happened, and what it meant.

One of the first problems that walked into our lives was that it was really hard to find women to come and read. The imbalance was something that became clear to us pretty much right away. Men would recommend each other, and men who were not qualified would recommend other men who were not qualified. It was amazing. They would be like, I clearly should be here, and my friends should also be here. Meanwhile women who were overqualified, who were incredible, would get there and be nervous, as if they weren’t allowed to have that space. And maybe for that reason they also wouldn’t recommend other women.

. . . .

When I looked at our own numbers, in terms of gender Tin House’s slush pile [the unsolicited work being sent to the publication] was 50/50. But when I sent out encouraging rejection letters — like, “This isn’t going to work for the magazine, but please feel free to send me something else” — as opposed to flat-out no’s, women were four times less likely to send something again. It seemed as if their reaction was, “Oh, you’re just being nice.” Whereas when I sent out encouraging rejections to men, they would immediately say, “Here are five more things. Here’s my desk drawer.” They would just take it literally.

Link to the rest at Electric Lit

PG says this whole article feels dated to him.

What in particular seems outmoded?

  1. Gatekeepers – What a dumb concept and concern about this or that group allowing you to participate in a social gathering despite your gender or race when you can reach a much larger audience online as an indy author, blogger, etc., than would ever fit into a physical space for an author reading. The online literary scene is larger and more important by countless degrees of magnitude than the Brooklyn literary scene ever has been or ever will be.
  2. What an antiquated concept to worry about being discriminated against by agents and publishers because of your gender, race or viewpoint. Why are you bothering to deal with people like that? Have you ever asked yourself if you are perpetuating such discrimination by doing business with a collection of such discriminatory people?
  3. Even being physically located in or near Brooklyn as an important factor for your success as an author seems archaic. In an era in which millions of interest groups form and thrive online regardless of the lack of geographic proximity, what does access to “Brooklyn” even mean? Although it’s not his cup of tea, PG has nothing against Brooklyn and hopes that all who would like to live there are able to do so, but to connect “Brooklyn” with success as an author is illogical. Your manuscript arrives at Amazon as quickly from Bozeman as it does from anywhere else.