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.).

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.