Self-Publishing

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

18 April 2019

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

16 April 2019

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

12 April 2019

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

31 March 2019

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

5 February 2019

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

4 February 2019

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

31 January 2019

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?

23 January 2019

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.

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