How Writers Fail (Part One)

From Kristine Kathryn Rusch:

I keep forgetting that working in the arts requires a very specific sort of attitude. It’s an attitude that can be trained, but to do that, an artist must want to change. This is a complex and sometimes difficult thing to do.

First, the attitude itself.

It’s a combination of optimism and pragmatism, with a bit of cynicism mixed in. Yeah, I know, confusing. So let me give you the example that sparked this small series of blog posts.

Moving to Las Vegas four years ago now enabled me to get in touch with dozens of artists in very different fields. I haven’t had that experience on a daily basis since I left Wisconsin mumble-mumble years ago. When I lived in small-town Oregon, going to conferences and conventions provided some of the contact, and the openness of the internet both helps and hurts, but nothing replaces an in-person experience, particularly with other art besides writing.

As I’ve mentioned in previous posts, I’ve been taking a series of classes. Some of them are in disciplines that I wasn’t able to practice due to that West Coast move, although I kept my hand in through online study. Some I simply needed to do in person for me, to get the feedback that comes from an audience and/or from an onsite instructor.

. . . .

But, about a week ago as I write this, I sat in the first class of a discipline that has changed a lot in the past forty years, due to the internet and the connectivity of the world. I’m being deliberately vague about the discipline for a variety of reasons, not the least is that I don’t want a bunch of people (on Facebook or here on the blog) asking me why I’m abandoning writing.

I’m not. I’m just reviving some other parts of myself.

. . . .

What type of class we’re dealing with isn’t exactly relevant to the story. I was sitting next to another person who desperately wants a career in the arts. That person had confessed as much to me.

We sat through the same presentation. We learned a whole bunch of really cool stuff. By the end of it, my internal optimist saw so many opportunities that had I not already chosen a writing career, I’d have been jumping on all of those opportunities. As it is, I’m looking at how to use what I learned just in the first class in my own writing career. (You’ll see posts about this scattered throughout what I’m doing the next few months, as I learn more.)

I was so excited. I’m still excited. The entire class made me realize I had felt this way when the indie publishing movement started—the whole popcorn kittens feeling. That feeling is essentially so many cool ideas that it’s almost impossible to corral all of them.

. . . .

So many opportunities! So much choice! How can I best use all of this to the advantage of my various businesses? How can I add more without losing something that I want to do?

After the class was over, I turned to the person beside me.

“Wow, this is incredible,” I said. “I hadn’t realized there were so many possibilities.”

The person made a sour face. “I don’t believe any of it,” the person said. “They’re going to have to prove to me that these opportunities exist.”

Prove? Heck, it was obvious to anyone who looked. It was obvious through just by going through daily life. And the class itself was obvious: It was being offered by people who worked in that discipline. If there weren’t opportunities, there would be no class.

Instead, if the opportunities did not exist, those who had the expertise would jealously guard that expertise so no one else could even attempt to participate. That’s how doors close, particularly in the arts. You have to break them down or sneak in sideways or be even better than anyone already practicing that art.

That was how traditional publishing was back when I first broke in. It took work, perseverance, and a willingness to ignore the word no over and over and over again.

. . . .

So, I said, in response to this person, “Prove it? What do you mean? It’s obvious.” (And sometimes I’m oblivious.)

The person said, “[this particular discipline] has never been open, not when I first tried it years ago. I doubt it’s open now.”

We’d just sat through a long presentation about all of the opportunities, and the instructor even talked about the way this discipline was once the most difficult to break into in the country and is no longer.

I opened my mouth, closed it, and finally got a clue. This person did not want to hear that they had just walked into a place with a lot of opportunity.

I said something polite (God knows what) and turned away to talk to another person who wanted to reinvent themselves because they’d lost their job in the pandemic. That person was very excited, as was an artist in another discipline who joined the conversation. That artist was trying to figure out—as I was—how to blend what we had just learned with what we were already doing.

We didn’t see dollar signs: we saw opportunity.

The first person? Opportunity had just given them an hours-long presentation, and that person turned their back on it. I wouldn’t be surprised if that person does not show up to any future classes.

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.

5 Ways to Use Fiverr to Publish Your Book

From Self Publishing with Dale:

When I first decided that I wanted to write a novel I have to admit I was a bit naïve going into the process. I was fumbling my way through and asking questions to authors that I knew on a regular basis.

. . . .

As soon as I hit my word target I realized there was a lot more work to go just to get it to a point where I could consider publishing it. This is when I took to Fiverr and other freelance sites to find experts that can assist me with the post-writing work of creating a book.

The results were a mixed bag, but on the whole I highly recommend at a minimum getting ideas from sellers on Fiverr if you are writing a book.

. . . .

1. Finding an editor

I created a job on multiple sites (mainly focused though on Fiverr and Upwork) to try and find an editor that could take my rough draft and help me get it closer and closer to a finished product. I received a lot of responses from both sites and I quickly realized I needed to be asking more questions to help weed out all of the people responding to my gig.

I asked questions like: How many YA books have you edited? How many books have focused on fan fiction or Norse myths? I would recommend that you think about these things prior to listing your jobs so you can more efficiently get through what will be quite a large volume of people submitting bids or applying to your job.

I ended up paying $350 for the first round of edits on a 53,000-word novel (as an aside, the novel finished around 61,000 words). I got incredibly lucky or did a decent job of vetting the editors because the person I found was amazing, efficient, and literally made all the difference in the world to my book.

Most of the online services would have cost triple the amount of money and would not have turned the book around in three working days. This was an incredible value and I am extremely happy with the choice I made to list this job.

2. Creating a Book Cover

My next gig that I listed was to have a graphic designer help me create a proper book cover for my eBook. I decided to focus on just an eBook release so I only needed a front cover. The volume of responses that I got from this job was a bit overwhelming and there was a very wide range of prices.

I tried a couple of sellers for this and provided them with the information they requested to take a crack at the book cover. The results of this job varied wildly from really terrible designs to ones that were okay but unusable. I ended up creating my own book cover using Canva and some ideas that I picked up from the various Fiverr designs that came my way.

I ended up spending around $150 for these services in total and ultimately didn’t use the results other than to influence the final book cover design. In the grand scheme of things this is a small price to pay to get some creative ideas and I do think that you can get usable book covers this way although I think I would encourage paying on the higher end of the bids as this was definitely an area where I got what I paid for with each design.

3. Copy for my Amazon listing

As soon as I got through a few rounds of edits (each round cost me the same as I used the same seller). I was ready to publish my book. In order to do that you have to do things like prepare the copy for the Amazon listing which is almost an art in itself.

Ultimately, I ended up using the same seller that did the editing for my book to help write (really edit) the copy that would go up in all of the online bookstores (Amazon, Apple, Barnes & Noble, etc.).

This was a modest cost of $50 and it made a huge difference in what I released. They expertly guided me through how to entice people to read the book by making it less of a short summary and more of a comparison piece to other similar books and shows that the reader might also like. I would not have thought of doing that without their assistance, but it makes complete sense.

Link to the rest at Self Publishing with Dale

PG would be interested in any experiences visitors have had, good or not-so-good, hiring help with writing/publishing from Fiverr, Upwork or other similar online service marketplaces.

The Author’s Guide to Fiverr

From Indies Unlimited:

If you’re a self-published author, there are chances that someone has suggested you get a cover or some editing on Fiverr. Upon learning the site Fiverr got its name because you could pay people five bucks for an assignment, you quickly dismiss whoever gave you that advice. You’re certain you can’t get anything good for that price. Well, don’t dismiss Fiverr so quickly. Just like a book shouldn’t be judged by its cover, Fiverr is more nuanced than its name suggests.

What is Fiverr?

Fiverr is a marketplace where you can either buy or sell service. The name comes from the fact that services start at $5. Now, there may be some great services that you can get for $5, but I haven’t found many. The real benefit of Fiverr is as a marketplace. You can see people selling things you want–such as covers, artwork, and editing. When you log on to purchase an item, the product or service sold is called a gig.

What Do Authors Buy on Fiverr?

Authors can buy pretty much anything, even other authors to write their books (I’m not kidding, ghostwriting gigs are there). Generally, authors want to write their own books, so, on a practical level, authors tend to purchase editing, covers, artwork (for ads or extras), copy writing/blurb writing, and logos.

If It’s not $5, How Much Is It?

The prices vary, and a lot of the deals will look like they’re five dollars, but they’re not — in practical terms — that cheap. For example, the ghostwriting gig I linked to above is $5, and for that fee, the author will deliver up to 200 words. At that rate, a 60,000-word novel would run you $1,500. Editing is similar. A good editing gig may charge $5 to edit 500 words. For an 80,000-word book, that will come out to $800. However, the good thing about all gigs is there’s the option to ask for a custom quote. When you do that, you tell the person how long your book is, what the genre is, and ask them for a quote. They may tell you they’ll charge you $700 (a $100 discount on what you would pay if you tried to order 160 of the $5 gigs). Not all gigs start at $5. The better cover designers start their gigs at a minimum of $15, but usually run at least $35. You need to look at what you get with a gig. Most gigs come with three options: bare bones, middle ground, and the luxury package. For a cover, the barebones gigs tend to only allow you one cover image. It’s hard to get a good cover with a single image; usually it requires at least a background image and another one. Authors wanting a cover that follows traditional cover guidelines will want to pay more for a gig that allows at least a couple of images.

Link to the rest at Indies Unlimited

How Are You Going to Spend the Money?

From Brandon Sanderson’s Blog:

How Are You Going to Spend the Money?

I got this question from the journalist from the Associated Press who interviewed me.  He gave an excellent interview, and we had a really great conversation.  But this question stopped me for a moment.  It’s a valid question, but it took me by surprise, as I haven’t been looking at this the way that some people seem to be.  I didn’t hit the lottery, any more than any other business hits the lottery when they have a product that connects with their market.

I will spend the money as I spend the rest of my money.  Part into savings, part into paying salaries (along with nice extra bonuses because the Kickstarter did well), part reinvested into the company.  (We’re still planning on building a physical bookstore, and this will help accelerate those plans.  Also, it’s not outside of reason that as I move into doing more film and TV, I will want to partially fund some of the projects.)

While this Kickstarter is an incredible event, and (don’t get me wrong) is going to earn me a good chunk of money, it’s going to be comparable to other projects I’ve done.  Also, don’t underestimate how much money it costs to maintain the infrastructure (like a warehouse–or in this case, probably more than one) it takes to be able to ship several hundred thousand books.  It will likely be years before we can be certain how much this actually earned us after all expenses.  More than we’d get from New York on the same books, but potentially not that much more.

That said, I will almost certainly buy myself some nice Magic cards.  Still have a few unlimited duals in my cube that could use an upgrade to black border.

Did You Anticipate This Level of Success for the Kickstarter?

I did not.  I knew the potential was there, but I didn’t think it (getting to this astronomical number of backers) would happen.

My guess was that we’d land somewhere in the 2–4 million range, though I really had no idea.  My team can attest to the fact that in the lead-up, I was very conservative in my estimates and expectations.  This was an experiment from us that I’d been wanting to try for a while.  (I’ll talk more about that below.)  I didn’t have any idea how well it would go.

To pull back the curtain for you a little, Rhythm of War’s first week sales were somewhere around 350,000 across all formats.  (That week was 50% audio, 25% ebook, 25% print.)  Starsight’s numbers were around 80,000 copies across all formats for the first week.  (This one was 54% audio, 29% ebook, and 17% print.)  Those are US numbers only.  Note, these are both what I’d consider very successful projects.  Both of these books sold enough to claim the #1 spot on their respective New York Times bestseller list, for example.  And though Stormlight sold 4 times as much–it also took 4 times as much work.  (In the long run, because of its larger price point, Stromlight does earn more though.  Which is why it amuses me that people sometimes accuse me of writing the YA books to “cash in.”  Um, no, my friends.  I earn less on those.  Not significantly less, but still.  I write them because they are stories I want to tell.)

The first year for Rhythm of War was about 800,000 copies total.  Starsight ended up somewhere around 250,000 copies after one year.  (Rough estimates.)  It’s too early to tell for Cytonic on this second metric, which is why I used the previous book.

Now let’s look at a less successful Sanderson book.  Legion: The Many Lives of Stephen Leeds is my worst-selling recent book.  First week was under 10,000 copies–and it’s only sold about 80k copies so far in the three years it’s been out, with the first year being roughly in the 50k range.  These numbers weren’t surprising to me–it was not only a short fiction collection (which is a tough sell to a lot of readers), it was also in a genre I’m not known for and the first two novellas had been out in ebook for years, with quite good sales.  So while this isn’t the best comparison ever, another good thing to look at was the Way of Kings leatherbound, which had roughly 30,000 backers.

Together, this knowledge gives a rough idea of my readership.  It’s hard to judge apples to apples with this Kickstarter, as I am giving the ebook with the other editions–and it’s hard to know how many of those readers above are buying two copies instead.  But I could guess that the upper end of the number of people willing to show up to buy a Sanderson book in the first year of release is somewhere around 800k, while the lower end of people who will show up for one is around 50k.  That’s why I say I knew the potential was there.  If the 30,000 people from the original Kickstarter showed up and bought the lowest tier, we’d be right around a million for the Kickstarter.  We knew it would likely be bigger, but how much bigger?

Modern media consumption is, for better or worse, very platform-specific.  People don’t like to be moved from one platform to another–and I get it.  The convenience of having your media collection all in one place, of already having your credit card info stored, of not having to do much besides click a button (or grab something at the bookstore where you’re already visiting) is huge.  The question wasn’t if people would want to read these books.  It was this: Would they be willing to move from their comfortable platform to Kickstarter?  Would we be able to even make them aware of these books?

How many of those potential 250k–800k people who normally buy a Sanderson book in the first year could be convinced instead to move and preorder it through Kickstarter?  Our guesses, it turned out, were way low.  But at the same time, it is interesting that (not disregarding our huge success, which I’m not at all complaining about) even this huge Kickstarter breaking all records is only grabbing a fraction of my normal audience.  So maybe you can see why we knew we had potential, but were conservative in our estimates.  We didn’t know what to expect, but assuming that we’d do a fraction of what a Stormlight book did in the same space (even if it was a reprint) was at least a reasonable baseline.

Note that if you want to consider a really daunting fact, realize that if all 800k first-year Stormlight readers showed up (these are the ones willing to buy the hardcover or the more expensive ebook, since the prices don’t drop to mass-market levels until after the first year) to buy these books on Kickstarter…  Well, our current average spend per backer is over $200.  So we’d be talking about a Kickstarter of $150 million plus, in that pie-in-the-sky case.

No, we’re not going to try to do that by releasing a mainline Stormlight novel in first run on Kickstarter.  The reason why has to do with the next questions.

Is This the End of Traditional Publishing For You?  Is That Why You Kickstarted These Books?

I know some of you know the answer to this, having read the sound bites I’ve put into various news media interviews I’ve done recently.  But if you’ll humor me, I want to go into more depth.  To do that, first let me tell you a story.  (Totally unexpected, I know.)

In 2010, Macmillan (the parent company of Tor Books) got into some finicky contract negotiations with Amazon.  The publishers felt that Amazon was selling ebooks at rock-bottom prices to move Kindles–something they wanted to do to dominate the market and control the reading platform.  During negotiations, Amazon–to put pressure on Macmillan and try to starve them out–stopped selling any Macmillan books.  (Except for used copies through the extended marketplace.)

This was within Amazon’s power; as a retailer, they can decide what they want to sell and what they don’t.  They used a common, if cutthroat, strategy here.  They had a flood of money during that time they actively didn’t want to turn a profit at the end of the year.  They knew that if they sold ebooks at a loss, Nook and Kobo would have to do likewise–and they weren’t flush with cash they literally needed to burn.

I don’t like that mindset, using our pieces of art as the thing sold rock-bottom.  But it’s not like the publishers have been angels in their treatment of Amazon.  The two have had a rocky relationship for basically forever.  Plus, the publishers have historically been backward-thinking about electronic mediums (see my next point).

The point here is that this event twelve years ago taught me something.  Amazon turning off the ability to buy books didn’t really hurt me in the long run. (Amazon, notably, picked the month of the year with the lowest book sales to do this.) But it did really hurt the careers of some newer authors who were releasing that month.  And it told me just how fragile my career was.  And it’s only gotten more fragile in the years since.

Judging how much market share Amazon has is famously difficult, as people keep sales figures close to their chest.  But many estimates put Amazon at around 80% of the ebook market, 90% of the audiobook market (they own Audible), and 65% of the print book market.  (You’ll sometimes see much lower guesses for ebooks, but I can tell you that at least for me, 80% is low.  It’s probably closer to 85%.)

So how many of those 800k copies of Rhythm of War did Amazon sell?  Probably around 650,000 copies–maybe more.  Somewhere around 80%, by my more conservative of estimations.  And in my most popular format, audio, they completely dominate the market.

This is deeply unsettling.

Now, it’s hard to blame Amazon for this, at least not entirely.  I absolutely blame them for their terrible treatment of workers.  And yes, they’ve engaged in some predatory practices, as I talked about above.  But I honestly think that the bigger factor is that they’re just really good at selling things.  Kindle has the best user experience, and was the innovation that finally broke open the ebook market.  Audible championed the credit model and finally brought audiobooks to a reasonable price point.  (Old people like me will remember the days of $70–$80 Wheel of Time audiobooks.)   Amazon’s delivery speed is incredible.  Their stock, near-infinite.

Beyond that, I have friends at Amazon.  I like the people at Amazon.  I’ve worked with them on many things, and the people there have universally been excellent.  Book lovers, passionate about their jobs, and really easy to get along with.

Still, their market share should terrify authors.  Innovation is strangled by market dominance.  And the problem with loss leading (like Amazon did over the years) is that eventually you have to start making profit.  And then the squeeze comes.  Indie authors are feeling this right now.  Amazon created the indie book market, quite literally.  Before it, indie publishing was an enormously expensive and risky affair.  One of my neighbors when I was growing up was a journalist who decided to try to indie-publish a book, and he ended up with the proverbial garage full of tens of thousands of copies he was unable to sell.

The ebook revolution, spearheaded by Amazon paying a whopping 70% royalty to indie authors who published on their platform, was huge.  (For reference, traditional publishing currently pays 17.5% on those same ebooks.)  This, mixed with authors having far more power to choose what they want to do with said books–including walking away whenever they want–created an extremely author-friendly boom that has legitimately done great things.  Smaller voices have a much better chance, the New York gatekeepers have lost some of their control, and there’s a feeling of democratization to publishing that has never existed before.

At least there used to be.

You see, since Amazon controls a huge chunk of the market, this gives them a lot of control.  For example, to get the good royalty, indie authors are forced to sell their ebooks under a maximum price chosen by Amazon.  (And that maximum price hasn’t changed in the last twelve years, despite inflation.)  The bigger problem, however, is how Amazon changed its advertising game–targeting indie authors with a kind of “advertise to sell” model.

You see, Amazon wasn’t making as much as it needed/wanted to from those books–in part because it insisted on keeping the prices low to maintain market share.  In part because it had promised kindle buyers this was their perk: cheap ebooks.  But it didn’t want to change its famous 70% royalty.  Otherwise it would look bad to indie authors.

So instead, it changed its recommendation algorithm and its page layout.  It moved organically recommended books down, and added advertisement slots across most book pages (particularly popular ones).  These slots were available for indie authors to buy.

If you go to the Way of Kings page on Amazon, you will find twelve advertisements between the top of the page and the reviews section.  Nine of these are for indie authors trying to sell their books to fans of the Stormlight Archive.  The other three are ads for non-book Amazon products.  This is better than it once was when Amazon first implemented this “feature” five or six years ago.  I once counted even more advertisements, and you had to go all the way to the bottom to find the traditional “books related to this one” list.  (This is the organically generated recommended books list, where other titles rated highly by readers of the book’s author could be found.)

These days, according to some of my indie author friends, you have to spend a great deal to sell on Amazon.  Not everyone’s experience is the same, but I hear this time and time again.  To make it as an indie author, you need to shell out for expensive advertising on the very website selling your books.  I have indie author friends who are spending a good portion of their income on these advertisements–and if they don’t, their sales vanish.  Amazon has effectively created a tax where indie authors pay back a chunk of that glorious 70% royalty to Amazon.  (And this is for the authors lucky enough to be allowed to buy those advertising spots, and therefore have the chance at selling.)

This might seem good.  Publishers spend to get their books in front of people, so it’s good for indie authors to have the same chance.  Except I think this system–as it stands now–takes power away from writers.  In the old days before this system, the primary way that you sold books on Amazon was by having people read them and like them.  If fans of the Stormlight Archive read your book (even in small numbers) and left good reviews, then your book showed up for free on my page.  Amazon might claim that it would be hard for indie authors to compete with traditional authors this way.  But if they really cared, then on the Stormlight page they could make a section titled something like “Independent authors liked by fans of the Stormlight Archive” and help them that way.

The truth is that while the people at Amazon are wonderful, Amazon itself doesn’t care about the indie authors as much as it claims.  If it did, it would let them raise their prices with inflation, and would promote them for free like it once did.  And we shouldn’t expect Amazon to be benevolent.  It is a corporation.  Indeed, this is exactly what we should expect Amazon to do in a system where it has a near-monopoly.  It lacks competition, and so where are these authors going to go?  There’s no other game in town.  So, now it’s time for Amazon to cut into what they’re being paid.  (With Audible, the move was more transparent.  Audible just dropped the royalty they’d been paying indie authors from 60% to 40%.)

This is a long-winded way of saying what many of you probably already knew.  Monopolies (or if you insist on being technical, near-monopolies and monopsonies like Amazon) are bad for everyone.  I insist this is bad for Amazon.  They could collapse this very market they created, and squeeze too much on both the publishers and the authors.  They could stagnate to the point that their user experience is bad, and we lose readers to other forms of media.

Regardless, this has been bothering me for over a decade.  I feel that the current system has a gun to my head.  Heck, all that has to happen is for someone at Amazon read this blog post or see my Kickstarter and decide they just want to make an example out of me.  Poof.  85% of my sales gone.  And while some people might go to another vendor to get my books, the painful truth is that many would not.  Time and time again, studies of contemporary tech media consumption have shown that the person who controls the platform is the one who controls the market.  And users like their platforms.  I mean, I’m as guilty of this as anyone.  I still haven’t gotten around to playing Starcraft 2, despite loving the first one, because I just am so used to Steam (where Starcraft 2 isn’t available) that I haven’t overcome the inertia to go buy it.

That said, even if Amazon weren’t a dominant force, there are some problems with traditional publishing that I’ve been fighting for years.  This is another reason for the Kickstarter.

Link to the rest at Brandon Sanderson and thanks to C. and others for the tip.

The OP includes substantially more of his thoughts and plans for the future together with past experiences, including some ways he’s tried to persuade his New York publishers to change.

PG was pleased with his perception that Sanderson doesn’t show signs of having this experience go to his head. PG didn’t agree with all of his thoughts, but admits Brandon has devoted some serious time to thinking about how he and other authors can be more successful.

L’auteur de Fantasy Brandon Sanderson pulvérise un record de crowdfunding

From ActuaLitté:

Brandon Sanderson s’est fait un peu plus qu’un nom dans le monde de la fantasy : son cycle des Archives de Roshar, ou encore la saga Fils-des-brumes traduits par Mélanie Fazi, se sont vendus à plus de 280.000 exemplaires dans leur seule version poche (données : Edistat). On lui confia même la suite de La Roue du Temps, laissé inachevé à la mort de Robert Jordan — trois romans pour clore l’œuvre et un prequel. Mais l’écrivain n’a pas fini d’étonner.

Link to the rest at ActuaLitté

From IGN Greece:

Ο συγγραφέα φαντασίας, Brandon Sanderson, ανακοίνωσε την νέα του καμπάνια στο Kickstarter για τέσσερα μυστικά βιβλία, η οποία κατάφερε να γίνει η καμπάνια με τα περισσότερα έσοδα στην πλατφόρμα.

Πριν τρεις μέρες, ο Sanderson, γνωστός συγγραφέας των “The Stormlight Archive”, “Mistoborn” και την ολοκλήρωση του “The Wheel of Time”, ανακοίνωσε στους fans του ότι κατά την διάρκεια της πανδημίας -αφού αναγκάστηκε να κόψει τα διάφορα ταξίδια σε conventions- εμπνεύστηκε και έγραψε πέντε νέα βιβλία φαντασίας, μέσα σε τρία χρόνια! Δεν αποκάλυψε τους τίτλους τους, παρά πόνο μια ιδέα των εξώφυλλων τους και ανακοίνωσε ότι τα τέσσερα απ’ αυτά θα διατεθούν μέσω της εκδοτικής του, Dragonsteel, μέσω καμπάνιας στο Kickstarter.

Link to the rest at IGN Greece

From Fantasy Magazine:

Sapevamo già quanto fosse popolare a livello mondiale Brandon Sanderson, autore noto sia per le sue saghe fantasy che per aver completato La Ruota del Tempo di Robert Jordan. Ma non si può negare che la cifra raccolta nel suo Kickstarter per la pubblicazioni di quattro romanzi ha dell’incredibile per un progetto letterario.

Ve ne parla Irene Grazzini (nel frattempo la cifra ha superato i venti milioni di dollari).

Link to the rest at Fantasy Magazine

From AD:

De schrijver trapte zijn Kickstarter-project af met een cryptische video op YouTube, waarin hij toegaf te hebben gelogen tegen zijn fans. ,,Sommigen van jullie zullen teleurgesteld in me zijn, terwijl anderen vast genieten van wat ik nu moet toegeven.”

Wat bleek: nadat Sanderson enkele jaren geleden zei minder hard te gaan werken, is hij stiekem juist meer boeken gaan schrijven. In de afgelopen twee jaar zou hij daarom vier geheime romans hebben geproduceerd, die hij in 2023 met behulp van een crowdfundcampagne op Kickstarter gaat publiceren.

Sanderson werd bekend met zijn fantasy-boeken in de Mistborn-reeks, waarin helden metalen inslikken om speciale krachten te krijgen. Ook bracht hij de Stormlight Archive-boeken uit en maakte hij de Wheel of Time-reeks af voor zijn overleden collega Robert Jordan. Hij staat bekend als een razendsnelle schrijver: in de afgelopen twintig jaar bracht hij tientallen boeken uit, meestal dikke pillen met honderden pagina’s.

Link to the rest at AD

Fantasy Author Raises $15.4 Million in 24 Hours to Self-Publish

PG managed to get round the NYT paywall today. The OP was published two days ago.

From The New York Times:

Brandon Sanderson, a prolific sci-fi and fantasy author, started an online fund-raising campaign this week to self-publish four of the novels he wrote during the pandemic. His goal: to raise $1 million in 30 days.

He blew past the first million in about 35 minutes. And the ticker kept rising.

In 24 hours, he raised $15.4 million, which the fund-raising website Kickstarter said was the single most successful day of any of their campaigns. By Thursday, two days into it, he had raised more than $19 million.

The eye-popping sum raises questions about what is possible for authors with major platforms who are willing to self-publish — and why the vast majority of big names stick with traditional routes to publication. But analysts, and even Sanderson himself, don’t see this kind of self-publishing as a problem for the industry or a desirable choice for most writers. Rather, for the right author, the two paths can coexist and help expand options for readers.

“Publishers need authors to be entrepreneurs these days,” said Kristen McLean, the executive director of business development at NPD Books, which tracks book sales. “This is just going to build his profile and continue to drive the backlist sales of all of his books.”

Part of why this project has worked for Sanderson, McLean said, is his unique relationship with his fans. He has sold 20 million print, audio and e-books, Sanderson said, including titles such as “Rhythm of War,” an epic fantasy novel about a coalition of humans resisting an enemy invasion. Like many authors of science fiction and fantasy, he has spent a lot of time in conventions and interacting with his audience. In 2019, he said, he was on the road for 111 days.

But self-publishing on the scale Sanderson is proposing is an enormously complicated proposition. Fundamentally, most authors want to write books, not run a publishing house.

Books require editors, designers and lawyers. Someone has to register the ISBN number and file for copyright. Someone else has to proofread the manuscript, then proofread it again. Printing thousands of copies of physical books, then storing and distributing them, is expensive and onerous.

To that end, Sanderson has built a company, Dragonsteel Entertainment, which employs 30 people including a marketing director, concept artist, continuity editor and human resources director. He also has a warehouse in Pleasant Grove, Utah, a short drive from his house.

Sanderson has been self-publishing e-books since the early 2010s, he said, and a 2020 Kickstarter campaign to fund a leather-bound reprint of one of his books served as a test run for this larger project.

“I am an artist who was raised by an accountant and a businessman,” Sanderson said in a phone interview from his office in American Fork, Utah. “For a lot of authors, this would be a bad idea because there’s a lot of management.”

Sanderson emphasized that he was not leaving traditional publishers, in part because he wants to be sure that bookstores can continue to have his work in stock. He is published by Tor, which is part of Macmillan Publishers, and Delacorte Press, an imprint of Penguin Random House, and he has a book scheduled for publication later this year with each of them.

e also has no plans to use his company to publish other authors, he said. What makes him successful is his ability to appeal directly to his own fans, who may not necessarily want to buy work by somebody else.

One of his goals for this project, Sanderson said, was to experiment. First, he wanted to see what it might look like to poke a little hole in Amazon’s dominance. Amazon sells more than half the printed books in the United States, but it is even more powerful in e-books and audiobooks, which account for 80 percent of Sanderson’s sales, he said.

“If Amazon’s grip on the industry is weakened, that’s good for the publishers — they are very much under Amazon’s thumb right now,” Sanderson said. “I don’t want to present this as ‘Brandon versus Amazon.’ Amazon’s great. But I think that in the long run, Amazon being a monopoly is actually bad for Amazon. If they don’t have competition, they will stop innovating.”

He also wanted to play around with bundling and upselling. Traditional publishers, he said, offer few products and few options. The array of packages on Kickstarter range from $40 for four e-books to $500 for the four books in all formats, plus eight boxes of “swag.”

Other high-profile writers occasionally self-publish. Donald Trump Jr. took that route with his second book, “Liberal Privilege,” after releasing his first book, “Triggered,” with an imprint of Hachette. Colleen Hoover, a novelist who has three books on the New York Times best-seller list this week, continued to self-publish long after she became a hit maker. And there are certain genres, like romance, science fiction or fantasy, where self-publishing e-books remains common for signed authors.

“There’s a lot of hybrid publishing out there that is just happening quietly in the background,” McLean said. “It’s just the way sophisticated authors in genres manage their business.”

Link to the rest at The New York Times

The author of the OP, Elizabeth A. Harris, is an NYT reporter whose beat is books and publishing. PG is not acquainted with her and, to the best of his knowledge, this is the first article written by Ms. Harris that he has read.

For 95% of traditional publishers in the United States and for quite a few commercial English-language publishers who sell their books in the US, The New York Times is an extremely valuable place to have their books be mentioned. A NYT Books and Publishing reporter is certain to have a great many excellent contacts in every major and a lot of minor publishers.

PG expects Ms. Harris may have contacted several publishers as she prepared her article. That would be the almost certain first step a reporter would have taken with a story like this. Yet, nobody who works for a publisher appears to have agreed to be quoted, even on an anonymous basis.

The one source identified in the article is NPD, a company that operates BookScan. BookScan’s business is providing information about the sales of printed and ebooks, mostly to traditional publishers. An interested observer might ask why a traditional publisher would need to pay someone else to track its sales, but, hey, publishing is a special snowflake and commercial concerns are for the beancounters who work somewhere in the basement and is a bit off topic anyway.

A chance for an executive of a major or minor publisher to be quoted in the New York Times would usually cause her/him to stop any business meeting or interrupt any lunch or vacation to speak with an NYT reporter. But nobody was willing to say anything, not even a catty remark, about Sanderson.

PG’s speculation is that everybody in New York (and maybe London) publishing hopes this is just a one-time happening that will never be repeated again. Everybody knows fantasy and science fiction authors are strange people anyway. Nothing to see hear, move on.

PG would appreciate it if any of the visitors to TPV discovers anyone associated with a traditional publishers commenting about Brandon Sanderson in print that they would send a link to PG via the Contact PG link at the top of the blog.

How Angry Should Other Writers Be About Brandon Sanderson’s $22 Million Kickstarter?

From Slate:

There’s nothing like the announcement of a fat book advance to set other writers grumbling in protest, whether the jackpot winners are Michelle and Barack Obama, who landed a staggering $65 million deal for two books in 2017 or such unsavory figures as right-wing provocateur Milo Yiannopoulos, whose relatively modest $250,000 contract with Simon & Schuster caused enough uproar that the book was eventually canceled earlier the same year.

But the announcement today that fantasy novelist Brandon Sanderson’s Kickstarter campaign to fund the publication of a four-book series had surpassed $20.8 million to become the platform’s most richly funded project to date presents an unusual challenge for critics of how publishing values books. Conservatives could complain that an overwhelmingly liberal industry had drastically overestimated the popularity of the Obamas and progressives could complain that a company like Simon and Schuster showed terrible judgment in promoting and lining the pockets of a troll like Yiannopoulous. But in Sanderson’s case, there’s no gatekeeper to blame.

Literary writers have long bemoaned the amount of money and promotional resources publishers have poured into books by celebrities, politicians, and the authors of formulaic commercial fiction. More recently, critics of the industry have demanded that publishers invest in more titles by authors of diverse identities. Since Sanderson’s Kickstarter made headlines, there’s been, unsurprisingly, some grousing on social media about whether such an already commercially successful author needs that kind of money. “Today is a really good day to support your favorite author who hasn’t made $18M in the last few days,” tweeted the fantasy novelist Natania Barron. Others have been frustrated that it’s a straight white Mormon man benefitting from this largesse: “There is so much excellent diverse SFF out there,” tweeted the critic Alex Brown, “and y’all are intent on giving that man millions of dollars.”

But it’s hard to take issue with a guy who’s simply selling his books directly to people who really, really want to read them. Sanderson wouldn’t have such a large following, of course, without the benefit of years of publishing conventionally, with the full resources of a traditional publishing house and its distribution networks behind him. (He also wouldn’t have that following if he weren’t reliably pleasing his readers.) And that $23.3 million won’t go as far as an old-fashioned advance, since Sanderson has to print, warehouse, and ship the books himself, along with the swag boxes and special collector’s editions that many of the project’s subscribers have purchased. It is, of course, a vast pile of money, but it’s not unprecedented: Dell paid Ken Follett about the same amount for two books all the way back in 1990 while Penguin paid a reputed $50 million advance for Follet’s Century trilogy in 2008. For that, Follett didn’t have to do anything but write.

A novelist as popular as Sanderson may even be taking a slight loss on this operation, compared to what he might net if he released these books through his current publisher, Tor. But Sanderson is interested enough in the business side of book publishing to try this experiment, and at a time of paper shortages, container ship catastrophes, and other supply-side headaches, to boot. Most authors of any identity or level of literary accomplishment aren’t interested in taking on such a project. And it’s not every author whose fans are willing to pay more for swag and for books printed on fancier paper with plusher bindings. This enterprise and its success is unique to Sanderson himself, and the track record he has with his fans.

There may be a handful of authors—Neil Gaiman and George R.R. Martin spring to mind—who could pull off something similar. There are authors who sell even more books, such as James Patterson or Diana Gabaldon, but whose fan base doesn’t care much about collectibles. And it’s entirely possible there are still other writers out there unfamiliar to me with fanbases so doggedly devoted that they might well be eyeing Sanderson’s $22 million haul and thinking, “I can beat that.” But I suspect not more than a handful.

It’s one thing to challenge publishers to provide readers with a wider variety of books by a more diverse selection of authors so that everyone can find more books to appreciate. It’s another to scold readers for their enthusiastic support of an author whose work they genuinely love because there are authors and books you consider—for whatever reason—more worthy. People don’t enjoy books simply because other people tell them that they should. And if I were one of those allegedly superior authors, I’m not sure I’d want to see my own work cast in the eat-your-spinach role against Sanderson’s French fries. Writers always seem to find a way to begrudge each other’s successes, but the case against Sanderson and his fans is based on sheer fantasy.

Link to the rest at Slate

PG was amused by the “Sanderson may even be taking a slight loss on this operation, compared to what he might net if he released these books through his current publisher,” statement in the OP.

PG suggests the author of the OP doesn’t really know much about the book business. Sanderson is making a huge boatload of money more than he would have received had he published these novels with Tor. The $19 million is just the start of the money he’ll earn. He’s going to sell a whole bunch of books to people who haven’t already bought them through Kickstarter.

Plus, he’ll almost certainly get some interest for a TV/video/movie deal. If PG were to speculate, he suspects that Netflix, Amazon, etc., are already thinking about how much they want to pay for video rights. Then there are t-shirts, toys, etc., plus foreign rights galore.

The author of the OP is a woman named Laura Miller who, according to her byline, is, “a books and culture columnist for Slate and the author of The Magician’s Book: A Skeptic’s Adventures in Narnia.”

PG checked on Amazon and found that Ms. Miller’s book was published by Little, Brown and Company in 2008 and currently has a Best Sellers Rank: #707,153 in Kindle Store. PG was not able to find any more recent books by Ms. Miller listed on Amazon.

Fantasy author raises $19 million on Kickstarter in two days to self-publish new novels

From CNBC:

Brandon Sanderson asked folks on Kickstarter for $1 million to self-publish four novels he wrote during the pandemic. They funded him in 35 minutes.

Two days later, Sanderson’s campaign has topped $19 million from more than 76,000 backers — and he’s still got 28 days to go. It is already the most-funded Kickstarter for a publishing project, eclipsing a previous Sanderson campaign that raised $6.7 million.

A prolific sci-fi and fantasy author, Sanderson is best known for creating the Cosmere fictional universe, in which most of his novels are set. This includes the “Mistborn” series and “The Stormlight Archive.”

Additionally, he helped finish the final three novels in Robert Jordan’s “The Wheel of Time” book series, which was recently turned into a television series by Amazon.

Sanderson’s Kickstarter offers backers four new novels, three of which are set in Cosmere, as digital e-books, audio books or physical copies based on their donation level. People who spend over a certain threshold will also receive eight monthly “swag” boxes of items related to Sanderson’s work.

As the owner of a small book company named Dragonsteel Entertainment, Sanderson used Kickstarter as a way to drum up enough funds to have enough books available to meet demand and so that he could offer a yearlong subscription box service.

Link to the rest at CNBC

PG wonders whether any visitors have heard of a fantasy author getting an advance of $19 million for a four-book deal under which he will be entitled to all the publisher’s revenue from sales of the books with no obligation to earn out the advance.

If anyone sees any interesting comments on this news from the traditional publishing industry, PG would appreciate a link or message via the Contact PG link at the top of the blog.

Draft2Digital to Acquire Smashwords

From Draft2Digital:

We’re betting that’s a headline you never expected to see, and we’re already anticipating the chatter this will cause in the indie author community!

We know this is going to feel a bit unexpected and out of the blue, but we’re very excited to make this announcement, and even more excited about what this means for you and the rest of the author community.

Since Draft2Digital was founded, in 2012, we have always believed that Smashwords was a vital and integral part of the self-publishing community. In many ways, Smashwords ultimately built the very industry in which we all work and thrive. Their work laid the foundation, and we’ve all been building on that foundation ever since.

And though Draft2Digital and Smashwords have always been cast as rivals in this little drama, the truth is it was, at worst, a friendly rivalry. In the end, we share the same goal: Empower self-published, indie authors and publishers to build and grow their publishing careers.

. . . .

So, what does this mean for our authors?
In terms of the service and resources you’ve come to expect from both companies, nothing really changes. At least, not right away. We will continue to offer the best author support there is, to all our combined authors, worldwide. And over time, authors and publishers will gain all of the advantages from both platforms, with a unified author dashboard and user experience.

The good news is that with our combined powers, all of us at Draft2Digital and Smashwords see myriad opportunities to build even more and even better tools and services, to help you build and grow your author career in ways you might never have imagined.

Among other things, the acquisition means:

  • Draft2Digital now serves 250,000+ authors
  • We now distribute 880,000+ ebooks and 11,000+ print books
  • D2D authors will also gain access to exclusive book marketing tools from Smashwords, including Smashwords Coupons, the patent pending Smashwords Presales tool, Author Interviews, and self-serve merchandising in the Smashwords Store

D2D authors and publishers can expect to gain access to:

  • The Smashwords Store
  • Smashwords Coupons
  • Smashwords Presales
  • Self-serve merchandising
  • Author Interviews
  • D2D erotica authors will also gain access to the Smashwords erotica certification system

Smashwords authors and publishers can expect to gain access to:

  • Simpler publishing tools; tools for automated end-matter
  • Books2Read Universal Book Links (UBLs), Author Pages, Book Tabs, and Reading Lists
  • D2D Print for POD paperbacks (Visit https://draft2digital.com/printbeta/ to be included in the beta)
  • D2D Payment Splitting for co-authors and collaborations
  • New payment options, including direct bank deposits
  • With the integration of the Smashwords storefront—combined with our Books2Read Universal Book Links (UBLs), Author Pages, Book Tabs, and Reading Lists, as well as D2D Promotions—the opportunities to help our authors market and promote their books, and to find more new readers worldwide, just went off the scale.

And of course, we’re still dedicated to our core services—providing the easiest and best way for authors to automatically format and distribute their work to an ever-growing catalog of retailers and libraries.

Link to the rest at Draft2Digital and thanks to H. for the tip.

PG has been a fan of D2D ever since he had some interactions with the founders when the company was just getting started.

Since then, D2D has seemed, from PG’s outside-looking-in perspective, to be a quality organization that treats indy authors well. He wishes them the best of luck in the integration of two of the early pioneers in author-empowered publishing.

Things I Wish I Knew Before I Published: Part II

From Writers in the Storm:

I love being an independent author-publisher. Being in control of my business gives me a great deal of satisfaction. It also gives me a lot of responsibilities and a heck of a lot of things to know. In part one of this series, I discussed some of the big picture things I wish I knew before I published. Part II continues with big picture things.

Know Your Motivation

You are a writer. You already know how much self-discipline it takes to write a book from first idea to polished product. Applying the seat of your pants to the seat of your chair may not be a problem for you when you’re writing. That kind of motivation is a big picture motivation. But what about the other stuff that a successful author must do?

Motivation for the Traditionally Published

A traditional publishing company will create deadlines relayed to you by your editor. Revisions are due on this date, approval of copywriting is due on a different date. Motivation to complete those tasks cannot be the money or the hope of publishing fame. It takes a distinct set of self-discipline skills to finish creative tasks in a certain time frame. Your publisher may dictate other things as well. Your contract may dictate where and when you make appearances. It doesn’t matter if you don’t feel like it. It’s part of your contract. 

These situations and time-frames do not have to be negative. Many authors have very pleasant and lucrative relationships with traditional publishing. Educate yourself on what to expect. Ask authors published by that company what their experience has been like. Know what your contract obligations are. Understand yourself, your self-discipline, and your expectations. Be prepared and you won’t lack motivation.

Motivation for the Independent Author-Publisher

When you’re self-employed, no one will yell at you if you’re late to work or even skip a day. You have no boss to remind you of your deadlines. You must be self-motivated enough to glue your butt to the chair to get the work done. 

Winging it isn’t the path to success. Have a plan. Have tools ready to help you stay on track. You also will need tools to get back on track when you’re depressed or after a hurtful review or an illness. When you are self-employed, you have to be worker bee, cheerleader, and taskmaster, sometimes all at once.

What I Wish I Knew About Motivation

I do not lack motivation to write. I love the entire process, from idea creation to rough draft to editing and polishing. What I wish I knew from the beginning was that I needed a system to ensure all the other tasks get done. I also wish I’d found the motivation to learn self-promotion techniques earlier.

Link to the rest at Writers in the Storm

How Much I Made Self-Publishing 10 Books Through Amazon KDP

From Medium:

Back in 2013, I was offered a publishing contract with a small book publisher. They asked me to write ‘Freelance Writing on Health, Food and Gardens’ – a 160 page book based on my success in specialist journalism.

The contract was royalties-only, but based on their expertise and enthusiasm, I had high hopes for the title. I expressed reservations because I thought the focus was too niche, but they didn’t agree. They pointed out that health is a massive growth area, food journalism is huge etc. Fair point. So I signed the contract.

After publication, reality kicked in. Sales were abysmal; marketing, non-existent. It got good reviews, but I only made £126 in royalties. It was a huge amount of work for £126.

. . . .

When I was ready to produce another book, I decided to self-publish and get a decent cut on each sale. ‘Freelance Writing: Aim Higher, Earn More,’ was born. It was a collection of my articles, most previously published in magazines, on how to succeed as a writer. I’d been writing for magazines for four years by this time, and was making a nice living from it.

I wrote new chapters to fill gaps. Over the next few years, I sold 140 copies and made about £250.

. . . .

Every time I had a slow period at work, I looked at my articles and considered whether a collection of themed articles would sell if I turned them into books. Still hoping for great things, I decided to publish more books.

Over the next six years I published:

  • The Little Book of Freelance Writing
  • Pagan Journeys
  • Healthy Inspired Living
  • Memories of the Second World War
  • A Grand Tour of Scotland
  • Writing Success
  • Candida Albicans
  • The Guinea Pigs’ Guide to Training Humans
  • Pestilence — an apocalyptic novel

With the exception of the last three, they were all collections of articles that I’d had published in magazines. Most of them were available in ebook and paperback formats on Amazon.

. . . .

To date, I’ve made just over £900 across all my titles. The writing books generated most of that income, although the most recent one flopped — I guess my readers have had enough!

. . . .

To be honest, I’m feeling Medium has more potential as a good earner if I publish regularly. Trying to sell books is very hard, unless you find a niche that sells itself.

. . . .

To keep my costs down on self-publishing, I created my own covers, formatted my own interiors and did all the practical work myself. I have MS Word and graphics software already, so the only investment required was my time.

Some people prefer to buy design and editorial services. But with modest incomes from books, you can see how it might be hard to make a profit if you’re paying out cash to cover designers, editors, and formatting companies.

Some people prefer to buy design and editorial services. But with modest incomes from books, you can see how it might be hard to make a profit if you’re paying out cash to cover designers, editors, and formatting companies.

. . . .

I’ve been disappointed by sales to date. The rewards seem to be diminishing. My writing books, which used to do well, aren’t selling now. The newest titles are selling in small numbers, but not enough to justify writing another novel, for example!

The novel was a huge amount of work and I’d hoped to sell 1000 copies, but I’ve yet to sell 100… despite running Amazon advertising campaigns.

. . . .

If you can get a publishing deal with an advance of £1000 or more, I’d grab it. I wrote another book in 2017, commissioned by a publisher, for which I received a £1500 advance. I’d consider that again.

Self-publishing however, is a bit hit and miss. Brilliant books get overlooked. Popular topics can do really well if they get noticed, despite flaws in the manuscripts.

. . . .

Cover design helps, but I’ve seen people use KDP standard templates and sell thousands! It depends to some extent on whether you have a ready audience.

. . . .

But for me, right now, I’m focused on growing my Medium profile, and obviously, the day job, writing for magazines. My next bestseller will have to wait!

Link to the rest at Medium

Independent Publishing: Off the Beaten Path

From Women Writers, Women’s Books:

Independent publishing, as opposed to commercial pushing (think Random House), is a terrific option for authors whose books don’t fit a literary agent’s idea of “saleable.” Authors of short story or essay collections, flash fiction, poetry, hybrid work and off-the-beaten-path novels very often seek out independent presses for possible publication, and they are right to do so: the world of independent publishing is an exciting one, full of terrific presses and excellent books.

I have written three collections of stories, two published and one forthcoming, all with independent presses, and I cannot overstate how supported I have felt, and how preciously my books have been treated.

My first press was very small—a “micro” press—that publishes only two books a year, so you can imagine the attention that was paid to every aspect of my book. I was treated as an artist and my book a work of art, and it was marvelous. Though my editor there wasn’t interested in publishing my second collection, I am indebted to her, and we are still good friends.

At the other end of the spectrum, my second publisher was quite large; my book was one of many and so did not receive the same attention, yet that press works with a larger distributor than a smaller press can, which means my book could end up on bookshop shelves—a big plus, as brick-and-mortar stores rarely stock small press books.

My third publisher lands between the first two in terms of how many titles they publish in a year. So far, my editor there is attentive and sensitive, and I foresee a good experience.

How do you find the right publisher for your book? 

. . . .

By now you’ve doubtless gathered that if you want your book displayed in the front windows of Barnes and Noble or to be an Oprah pick, independent publishing is not for you. There are downsides to publishing independently, and lack of exposure is one of them. Amazon will carry your book, of course, and bookstores will special order it on demand, but it will likely not be available to browsers and that will affect sales.

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

PG has an alternate answer to the question in the OP, “How do you find the right publisher for your book?”

https://kdp.amazon.com/

How to Create a Book Cover on Kindle Direct Publishing

From Medium:

Below, I share how I created and formatted my book cover, with extra attention to detail on the nitty-gritty of formatting the book cover for a paperback versus an ebook.

1: Find an Artist

Why you should commission artwork for your book cover

Isn’t that expensive? Yes, it’s an investment: an investment to make sure your other investment — hours, months, and years spent brainstorming, researching, workshopping, editing, and writing your book — doesn’t go to waste.

One of the biggest drawbacks of traditional publishing is that you don’t have control over anything except what goes within the covers of the book (and sometimes barely that).

Naturally, then, one of the biggest advantages of self-publishing is complete control. Why not tailor a cover to your story?

Finding an artist

In my case, I scoured #PortfolioDay on Twitter, not just to scope out potential artists but, more importantly, to scope out different styles and get a sense of what I wanted. What would best convey the feel and theme of the book?

My story is a speculative Asian ghost story with culture and history at its core. I didn’t want straight-up anime but I knew I wanted an art style close to it. I saved images of wispy, hazy brushstrokes because I knew I wanted something ethereal to represent the magical elements of my story. I saved cartoon styles that were distinctly Korean — again, not quite anime, but close to it.

I then took screenshots of traditional Korean fan dance and drum dance, important elements of the story, to figure out how I wanted my main characters to be posing.

Towards the end of my research process, I cold-emailed two artists. One of them got back to me quicker.

Link to the rest at Medium

Reactions to Ingram Spark Post

PG has received several emails from visitors to TPV after his post of Mike Shatzkin’s article about Ingram Spark.

While the emails are are in no way a reflection of Ingram Spark’s performance pro or con, each of the emails PG has received describe in detail unsatisfactory experiences of indie authors/small presses with Ingram.

Feel free to share your experiences, good or bad, in the comments or, on a non-public basis with PG via the Contact PG link at the top of the blog.

The Publishing Ecosystem in the Digital Era

From The Los Angeles Review of Books:

IN 1995, I WENT to work as a writer and editor for Book World, the then-standalone book-review section of The Washington Post. I left a decade later, two years before Amazon released the Kindle ebook reader. By then, mainstream news outlets like the Post were on the ropes, battered by what sociologist John B. Thompson, in Book Wars, calls “the digital revolution” and its erosion of print subscriptions and advertising revenue. The idea that a serious newspaper had to have a separate book-review section seems quaint now. Aside from The New York Times Book Review, most of Book World’s competitors have faded into legend, like the elves departing from Middle-earth at the end of The Lord of the Rings. Their age has ended, though the age of the book has not.

Nobody arrives better equipped than Thompson to map how the publishing ecosystem has persisted and morphed in the digital environment. An emeritus professor of sociology at the University of Cambridge and emeritus fellow at Jesus College, Cambridge, Thompson conducts his latest field survey of publishing through a rigorous combination of data analysis and in-depth interviews. Book Wars comes stuffed with graphs and tables as well as detailed anecdotes. The data component can get wearisome for a reader not hip-deep in the business, but it’s invaluable to have such thorough documentation of the digital publishing multiverse.

. . . .

One big question animates Thompson’s investigation: “So what happens when the oldest of our media industries collides with the great technological revolution of our time?” That sounds like hyperbole — book publishing hasn’t exactly stood still since Gutenberg. A lot happens in 500 years, even without computers. But for an industry built on the time-tested format of print books, the internet understandably looked and felt like an existential threat as well as an opportunity.

Early on in his study, Thompson neatly evokes the fear that accompanied the advent of ebooks. The shift to digital formats had already eviscerated the music industry; no wonder publishers felt queasy. As Thompson writes, “Were books heading in the same direction as CDs and vinyl LPs — on a precipitous downward slope and likely to be eclipsed by digital downloads? Was this the beginning of the end of the physical book?” That question has been asked over and over again for decades now, and the answer remains an emphatic No. (Note to pundits: Please resist the urge to write more “Print isn’t dead!” hot takes.) But publishers didn’t know that in the early digital days.

The words “revolution” and “disruption” get thrown around so often that they’ve lost their punch, but Thompson justifies his use of them here. He recalls the “dizzying growth” of digital books beginning in 2008, “the first full year of the Kindle.” That year alone, ebook sales for US trade titles added up to $69 million; by 2012, they had ballooned to $1.5 billion, “a 22-fold increase in just four years.”

Print, as usual, refused to be superseded. Despite their early boom, ebooks didn’t cannibalize the print market. Thompson uses data from the Association of American Publishers to show that ebooks plateaued at 23 to 24 percent of total book sales in the 2012–’14 period, then slipped to about 15 percent in 2017–’18. Print books, on the other hand, continue to account for the lion’s share of sales, with a low point of about 75 percent in 2012–’14, bouncing back to 80­ to 85 percent of total sales in 2015–’16. (Thompson’s study stops before the 2020–’21 pandemic, but print sales have for the most part been strong in the COVID-19 era.)

For some high-consumption genres, like romance, the ebook format turned out to be a match made in heaven; Thompson notes that romance “outperforms every other category by a significant margin.” But readers in most genres have grown used to choosing among formats, and traditional publishers have for the most part proved able and willing to incorporate those formats into their catalogs. That’s a net gain both for consumer choice and for broader access to books.

. . . .

Thompson quotes an anonymous trade-publishing CEO: “The power of Amazon is the single biggest issue in publishing.”

It’s easy to see why. With its vast market reach and unprecedented access to customer data, Amazon has made itself indispensable to publishers, who rely on it both to drive sales (often at painfully deep discounts) and to connect with readers. For many of us, if a book’s not available on Amazon, it might as well not exist. “Given Amazon’s dominant position as a retailer of both print and ebooks and its large stock of information capital, publishers increasingly find themselves locked in a Faustian pact with their largest customer,” Thompson writes.

That pact has proven hard to break. “Today, Amazon accounts for around 45 percent of all print book sales in the US and more than 75 percent of all ebook unit sales, and for many publishers, around half — in some cases, more — of their sales are accounted for by a single customer, Amazon,” Thompson points out. That’s staggering.

Does Amazon care about books? Not in the way that publishers, authors, and readers do, but that doesn’t change the power dynamic. Amazon derives its power from market share, yes, but also from what Thompson calls “information capital” — namely the data it collects about its customers. That gives it an enormous advantage over publishers, whose traditional business approach prioritizes creative content and relationships with authors and booksellers.

Workarounds to Amazon exist, though not yet at scale. Just as authors have learned to connect with readers via email newsletters and social media, so have publishers been experimenting with direct outreach via digital channels. Email feels almost quaint, but done well it remains a simple and effective way to reach a target audience. Selling directly to readers means publishers can avoid the discounts and terms imposed on them by Amazon and other distributors.

. . . .

Authors can now sidestep literary gatekeepers, such as agents and acquiring editors, and build successful careers with the help of self-publishing platforms and outlets that didn’t exist 20 or even 10 years ago. Self-publishing has become respectable; we’ve traveled a long way from the days when book review editors wrote off self-published books as vanity press projects. Newspaper book sections have mostly vanished, but book commentary pops up all over the internet, in serious review outlets like this one and in the feeds of Instagram and TikTok influencers. It’s a #bookstagram as well as an NYTBR world now. To me, that feels like a win for books, authors, and readers.

. . . .

Some authors hit the big time in terms of sales and readers without relying on a traditional publisher. Thompson returns several times to the example of the software engineer-turned-writer Andy Weir, whose hit book The Martian (2011) got its start as serialized chapters published on his blog and delivered to readers via newsletter. (Newsletters represent another digital-publishing trend unlikely to disappear anytime soon.) “The astonishing success of The Martian — from blog to bestseller — epitomizes the paradox of the digital revolution in publishing: unprecedented new opportunities are opened up, both for individuals and for organizations, while beneath the surface the tectonic plates of the industry are shifting,” Thompson writes.

Link to the rest at The Los Angeles Review of Books

The Value of Book Distribution Is Often Misunderstood by Authors

From Jane Friedman:

During my career in publishing, several factors have led to self-publishing becoming a viable and profitable path for authors. These include:

  • The growth of ebook sales, which in some ways replaces the mass-market paperback
  • The rise of online retail: the majority of books are now sold online regardless of format—and we all know where, at least in the US
  • The advent of print-on-demand (POD) technology and distribution

This last one has been of tremendous benefit to traditional publishers and authors alike. It means that no one has to take a financial risk on a print run when demand is uncertain. Nor does anyone need to worry about warehousing and inventory management. Rather, the book is printed only when an order is placed, then it’s immediately dispatched to the customer.

As of 2021, most readers cannot tell if the paperback they’re holding in their hands is print-on-demand or from a traditional offset printer. Even hardcover print-on-demand is seeing an increase in sales and acceptance by consumers. Yes, print-on-demand carries carries a higher unit cost (and thus lower profits), and it has some design and production limitations. But for the average self-publishing author, this makes publishing more accessible and affordable than it has ever been. (The same is true for small presses, of course.)

As more and more books get purchased online, it doesn’t matter if your books are available on a physical bookstore shelf or not. You don’t need a bricks-and-mortar presence for your book to be discovered and purchased. All you need is a product page at the major online retailers. Readers won’t know how the book is printed or that it’s only printed when they order it, or they may prefer a digital edition.

Print distribution using POD can be set up quickly by anyone, at no or little cost, using Amazon and Ingram. Amazon KDP is the portal that self-publishing authors use to upload their book for sale in both print and ebook formats. Ingram is the biggest book distributor in the world, and authors can access its distribution network through IngramSpark. Cost is minimal, about $50 for initial setup and $25 per year after that. Ingram sells to anyone and everyone who buys books, including your independent bookstore, libraries, chains; it also has a global distribution network that reaches just about any country you can expect to sell in. Your book is available to be ordered at thousands of retailers once it’s active in Ingram’s system.

So quality distribution is not hard. It can be obtained by anyone by simply signing up and uploading printer-ready book files or ebook files.

So why do people talk about the need for “distribution” so much if distribution is essentially free for all?

Some people conflate book distribution with having a sales and marketing team.

There are two types of distributors in traditional book publishing. One type of distributor actually sells the book into retailers, in significant quantities. Sales reps pitch specific accounts or buyers. They try to secure orders for hundreds or thousands of books prior to the publication date. This makes a lot of sense in a traditional publishing model where there’s a print run and you’re trying to generate as much interest and demand as possible in the lead up to publication, to get as many books on shelves as possible. The print run might even be adjusted based on how much accounts order.

The other type of distributor simply ships books when they’re ordered. They take care of warehousing and fulfillment. They are not selling and marketing books, but they are also taking a smaller cut of sales than the type of sales-responsible distributor discussed above.

Ingram is a bit of a confusing character in all this because it handles both types of distribution. But for the purposes of self-publishing authors, it really only serves the latter role: it makes books available to be ordered. Your book is included in its database of thousands upon thousands of titles. But they’re not actively going out and selling or marketing titles to accounts, any more than Amazon has a sales force that sells your ebook or POD book.

If you’re investing in a print run, then distribution is in fact a major challenge

Imagine spending thousands of dollars to pay an offset printer to ship you 1,000 print copies of your book. The books have arrived at your front door on a pallet. Now what? How will you get these books into retailers’ hands? Where will you store them? Who will ship them? This is a big problem and it used to be that authors relied on Amazon Advantage to solve it. But Amazon Advantage is now closed to new accounts.

It is exceedingly difficult to distribute print books as an author when you do a print run. You really need to be working with a service company of some kind, or a hybrid publisher, or someone who can warehouse the books and fulfill orders for you over the long term, who has a relationship with Ingram, Amazon, and so on. There is no realistic way for a single-title author to work directly with either of those companies unless you’re using their print-on-demand services.

Link to the rest at Jane Friedman

There are a relatively small group of blogs and websites that almost always have information that PG thinks is quite worthwhile. Jane Friedman’s blog is one of that group. She sometimes has guest bloggers from time to time who also usually do a good job as well, but Jane is very consistently quite good.

Much recommended by PG: Jane Friedman

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

From The Independent Publishing Magazine:

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

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

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

Build Relationships

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

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

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

Focus on Marketing

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

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

Diversify Everything

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

This should include:

●     Your Income

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

●     Your Distribution Methods

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

Link to the rest at The Independent Publishing Magazine

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Enterprise self-publishing” is coming

From Mike Shatzkin at The Idea Logical Company:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

. . . .

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

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

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

Link to the rest at The Idea Logical Company

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

From Jane Friedman:

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

Before You Begin

Join the Facebook group called Wide for the Win.

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

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

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

Setting Goals

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

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

My first-year goals

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

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

My second-year goals

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

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

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

Important: I Chose to Publish Wide

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

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

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

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

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

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

Link to the rest at Jane Friedman

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

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

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

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

That ain’t so.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Therefore:

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

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

Business Musings: Traditional Writers

From Kristine Kathryn Rusc h:

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

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

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

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

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

So, never mind.

No, there’s no advantage to traditional publishing.

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

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

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

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

That would be new releases, not backlist.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

. . . .

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

What are these writers doing?

Well, not thinking for one.

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

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

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

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

. . . .

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

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

And that’s a shame.

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

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

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

One blogger wrote this after she found that statistic:

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

Yep. Distressing.

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

Link to the rest at Kristine Kathryn Rusch

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

The Freedom to Change Genre as a Self-Published Author

From Woman Writers, Women’s Books

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Are Royalties Fair? A Publisher Weighs In

From Mark Gottlieb Talks Books:

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

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

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

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

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

. . . .

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

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

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

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

. . . .

The Unfairness of the Current System

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

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

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

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

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

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

“The publishing business is notoriously unpredictable…”

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

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

. . . .

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

PG checked out each of these two titles on Amazon:

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

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

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

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

Rethinking and Book Wars

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

From Amazon Author Insights:

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

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

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

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

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

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

. . . .

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

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

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

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

Link to the rest at Amazon Author Insights

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

From Medium:

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

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

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

. . . .

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

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

. . . .

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

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

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

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

. . . .

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

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

But this is the gamble I am making.

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

Link to the rest at Medium

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

Beware of Books!

From Persuasion:

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

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

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

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

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

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

The critical consensus soon flipped.

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

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

. . . .

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

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

Link to the rest at Persuasion

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

But, as usual, PG could be wrong.

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

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

From The Financial Post:

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

A new world for self-publishing

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

. . . .

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

Link to the rest at The Financial Post

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

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

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

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

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

Know thy reader

From The Bookseller:

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

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

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

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

. . . .

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

Link to the rest at The Bookseller

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Make a Living at Writing?

From J.P. Kenna:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Link to the rest at Blue Collar Author Blog

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

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

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

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

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

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

Nine Months of Covid

From Women Writers, Women’s Books:

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

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

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

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

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

. . . .

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Don’t work with jerks.

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

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

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

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

Draft2Digital Review

From Reedsy Blog:

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

Pros:

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

Cons:

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

. . . .

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

How does Draft2Digital work?

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

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

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

How much does D2D cost?

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

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

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

Link to the rest at Reedsy Blog

The Kickstarted Game Changer

From Kristine Kathryn Rus ch:

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

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

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

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

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

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

. . . .

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

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

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

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

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

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

And now this.

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

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

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

That still means this Kickstarter will clear 4 million dollars.

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

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

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

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

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

Just one little slice of the copyright.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Link to the rest at Kristine Kathryn Rusch

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