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.