Friday, February 15, 2019

Copyright: Protect Your Rights!



Hang on to your rights when you publish your book. Apparently, many traditional publishers are now trying to grab all the rights as part of their arrangement. According to this post, you should avoid that!

Think this isn’t an issue for indie publishers? Wrong. The services I utilize do not take any of my rights. By using KDP or Draft2Digital, I license those services to host and distribute my ebooks. However, I still own the copyrights. Those terms can change at any time though, so when I get an email from them indicating the terms of service are changing, I take the time to go see what they are up to. For those of you who have decided to go with hybrid publishers, check the terms of service or your contracts very carefully! Your copyrights are your property; do not give them away without being compensated!

You do not have to register your book when you indie publish it, and pay the $35 fee. You do have to register it prior to filing a lawsuit for infringement however.

From the article:
"If you have published a novel, traditionally or indie, and you do not understand copyright, you are volunteering to get screwed over and over and over again. I say this often, and I’m saying it loudly again, because the trend for 2019 and beyond is that every organization you do business with will try to take a piece (if not all) of your copyright on each and every one of your projects. 
I recommend publishing indie, because that’s the best way to protect yourself and your writing income. You’ll have a career if you do that. Your career might vanish on you if you try to remain traditional. Or, rather, you will write as a “hobby” while you make your living doing something else. 
The more IP a company acquires, the more its value goes up. Your novel is IP. If they acquire it, their bottom line goes up, even if they never do anything with that IP. 
Those conglomerates put all of the intellectual property on their account books as an asset. So your novel—even if it’s more or less out of print (or has a $19.99 ebook like my novel Fantasy Life)—has a value assigned to it that reflects not only its earnings right now, but its potential earnings in the future. 
*** 
In fact, we just had interest on one of my books from a Hollywood production company. They wanted to “see” the book—from me or my representative. However, before letting them “see” it, I had to sign a document giving them some copyright in the book—even if they chose not to option the book. Not kidding. 
This, a book they could have bought on any one of a dozen sites or stores. They came to us directly so that they could sneakily get a slice of copyright, just in case I wasn’t paying attention to the legalities and niceties of copyright law. 
I refused to let them “see” the book, and did not bother to tell them they could buy it themselves, just in case they would take that as an acceptance of their stupid little legal ploy. 
Sneaky! (KM) 
This, by the way, was not a fly-by-night production company, but one of the largest in the world, fronted by two very famous hyphenates you would recognize. I always wonder, when I see things like this, how many writers were flattered that representatives of these two famous people were interested in their teeny tiny book."
Read the entire article.

For more information on copyright:

Copyright Basics: https://www.copyright.gov/circs/circ01.pdf

Copyright Registration: https://www.copyright.gov/circs/circ02.pdf

General information about copyright: https://www.copyright.gov/circs/

Friday, February 8, 2019

Writing a Great Book Description

Three things are critical to your success as an indie publisher: the book, the cover, and the blurb. Last week, I posted information I found about cover design. This week I found some good articles about book descriptions. As I said in my presentation at the Elgin Literary Festival, I believe that authors should not write their book’s description. Authors tend to write descriptions that describe the book, not sell the book. So, given we all don’t know a copywriter, or have the funds to hire one, how can we write a better description, one that compels the potential reader to buy the book?

I found three articles that address this issue. From the first two articles (a part 1 and part 2 setup):
"There’s a common bit of advice that authors need to “grab readers by the throat” with the first paragraph. 
I fear writers who take that long are already struggling to play catch up. 
For me, as a reader and now as a publisher, more important to me than first paragraphs are titles and book descriptions. 
It used to be that readers would browse books and pick one up based on a title. They might look at a cover, but after the title, most readers checked either the inner dust jacket (remember those?) or the back cover of the paperback (remember those?). 
Nowadays there’s no such browsing. You get thumbnails and titles, and then a book description, all while that “Buy Now” button hovers so prominently as to be rarely seen at all until you need to click."
The examples he cites in the article are very long descriptions; perhaps descriptions don’t need to be short anymore. I think people are now so used to scrolling that the “keep everything above the fold” advice no longer applies. (KM)
"You DON’T want to give away major plot points. You DON’T want to reveal twists that are going to dig your hook deeper into your readers to ensure the HAVE TO keep turning pages. 
But you do want to allude to them.

You don’t want to give away the ending of your book, or even major plot points. What you DO want to do is two-fold: indicate what’s at stake and why it matters, because that’s where the emotions come from. You don’t want to tell your readers what obstacles your character needs to overcome and how they’ll do so; what your character is trying to achieve that those obstacles are in the way of, and why those achievements matter to your character."
Read both articles: Part 1 and Part 2.

I also came across this great article on the Draft2Digital site. As my blog readers know, I recently put one of my books on Draft2Digital to test the process. It worked great. No sales yet, but without advertising (or a decent book description, do as I say, not as I do), that isn't a big surprise.

From that article:
"You may call it a ‘blurb’ or ‘back cover copy’ or ‘all that text I have to paste into my book page.’ Whatever your name for it, you can’t afford to ignore it. After your cover, the product description of your book is the first experience the reader has with you as an author. So getting it right is the proverbial ‘big deal.’ 
Most book descriptions have less to do with the story of the book, and more to do with the story of the reader. Tell the reader about the journey they're going to take, rather than trying to create a shorthand or synopsis of your book. 
People forget this all the time, but you have to remember that you're writing marketing material, not a short story. And you always have to ask for what you want.
It's a psychological trigger."
Also, the online book description is what really matters, not what is on the back of the book. Since so few indie published books end up in bookstores, the back of the book could be blank! The online description can change as often as needed. It is now what sells the book in our digital age! (KM)

Read the entirety of this great article.


Friday, February 1, 2019

How to Design a Great Book Cover

This is one of the best, and most comprehensive, articles I have read about book covers.
"Covers are the first bit of customer-facing marketing that your reader will ever see. They’re a shortcut—telling the reader in shorthand that they’ll like this book, that it’s in the genre they love to read, and that the person who wrote it is someone they can trust with their valuable (often limited) reading time.
[No pressure though! KM]
We can scan an entire digital page or an entire physical display of books, and in seconds we’ll spot the one or two that make us feel that little twinge of excitement. Something about the cover—the tone of it, the action and drama, the artistic style—gets us to pick it up or click on it, and learn more.

Your cover is its own story, and readers are looking at it as a way to help them make a purchasing and reading decision.

The cover is designed to entice the reader, to get them to pick up the book. But it doesn’t tell the story in and of itself. It provides a scene—a hero in jeopardy, or performing some heroic act, or simply surprised by some off-screen revelation. That cover is there to get the reader to pick up the book and open it, and the story inside takes care of the rest. 
***
… one of the unconscious signs of an “indie published book” is the size and treatment of the author’s name. And though we all have immense indie pride, we still have to try to meet the expectations of our readers. And readers want to think of authors as being grand and larger than life. 
[Don’t make your name too small on the cover. KM] 
*** 
In our digital age, the first time someone sees your cover is most likely in a grid of other covers, and at the size of a postage stamp. That tiny little rectangle is all your reader gets to make their very first decision about you and your book.

So everything else aside, one of the most important aspects of cover design is the answer to this question: How well does it scale down?
*** 
… do yourself and your readers the great favor of letting the professionals do their job. Your cover and your book sales will be the better for it. And you’ll have the even greater benefit of having more time to write books, which is better for everyone."
There is quite a bit more, definitely worth reading. Read the whole article!

Monday, January 21, 2019

Moving Your Ebook Beyond KDP


I put one of my books on Draft2Digital today. The process wasn’t too bad. It was easier than KDP in some respects, but messier in others.

1. Putting the files on the D2D system was easy. It asks for the standard stuff: Title, author, category, price… I found it odd it didn’t ask me for tags like KDP does, so that is something I have to explore. Perhaps it uses the tags in the file itself. If that’s the case I’ll have to add input tags to my checklist!

2. I tried a number of file formats during the upload process. D2D lets you upload any file that Word can read. So, I loaded a LibreOffice file and it worked OK. I loaded a Word file and it worked OK. Both of those options did one thing I didn’t like: it insisted on putting indents in the paragraphs on my copyright page, no matter how I set the original document. I’m still not convinced I’m not doing something wrong – I’ll keep fiddling with it, but if that’s the way it works I’m not pleased. The rest of the book looked fine, including the table of contents.

3. I also loaded a pre-formatted epub file. That worked the best. The layout turned out great, but I would expect that as I can assert a high degree of control in an epub file. That’s ultimately what I ended up using for my upload.

I chose all the options available to me, except Amazon. Here is the list of where my ebook will end up:

I did not publish on Amazon because this book is already there. But, based on the royalties I’m better off publishing direct on Amazon anyway. The royalty at D2D for my $2.99 book is $1.78. My royalty for the same book, same price, at KDP is $2.07. That’s a $0.29 difference! (Of course $0.29 x 0 = 0.)

The royalty situation at the other publishers is also $1.78, except for the library-based distributors. At Overdrive, bibliotheca, and Baker & Taylor I get $2.80 if the library buys the ebook on a one checkout at a time basis. Only Overdrive gives the libraries the option to purchase the ebook on a per-checkout basis, and that number is $0.46 every time someone checks it out.

I’ll check in about a week to see if there is any activity. I really don’t expect there will be as I am not advertising or anything.

Thursday, January 17, 2019

Walmart Selling Ebooks

A friend of mine sent me this picture. He took it at our local Walmart, in the book section. He said that at least half of the book section was devoted to these ebook download cards. That's new, to me at least.

And, note the price differences! The ebooks on top are priced way lower than the blockbuster titles on the lower row! No wonder the big publishers say ebook sales are down - if they priced them relative to cost they would sell far more. The ones on the top row are not indie published, Lisa Regan got a book deal with Bookouture and the others on that row are all with some imprint of the big 5. So, getting our indie books in Walmart may not be a reasonable expectation. But, it would be nice!


Audiobooks for Indie Publishers!

Today author Kristine Rusch posted her insights into the world of audiobooks.
"Audio story is expanding almost daily. Podcasts have moved from a group of people talking or someone interviewing someone else into the storytelling format. Some of those podcasts are nonfiction, but many are fiction, and have become a gateway into reading novels and other fictional products."
Would audio of a section, or chapter, online make for good advertising? (KM)
"Audio is expensive to produce and it takes time to earn back the initial investment, without proper set up … it’s more essential than ever for writers to hold onto their audio rights. However, traditional publishers are snapping up audio rights with every single book contract now, which is rather like snapping up movie rights or TV rights. And writers are letting the publishers do it—usually on the advice of idiot agents. 
Audio is the reason that Simon & Schuster’s Carolyn Reidy declared 2018 the best year ever for the company—the growth of audio and backlist sales…"
Not new books, or new authors! (KM)
"Findaway Voices, in particular, has become a go-to site for writers who want to produce their own audiobooks. 
The key here with audio rights—with all of your rights, really—is maintaining control of them. Watch your contracts. If you’re publishing traditionally, reserve your audio rights. Do not sell them as part of a package to your traditional publisher, no matter how big those companies are. 
The problem with all of the S&S [Simon & Schuster - KM] contracts I’ve seen—the problem with most of the Big 5 contracts I’ve seen—is that they won’t accept a license for a single right. They want to license the entire property, even if they don’t exercise all of those rights. Which means that by licensing audio to them, you might lose paperback rights as well. Or the entire copyright, since that seems to be the M.O. for many of these companies."
Those of you who got book deals, or have idiot agents - check your contracts and see if you still have your audiobook rights! (KM)

Ebooks: Better for Literature Than Print

Ebooks provide us with purer literature than print books. Heresy! Hear me out.

Print book fanatics talk on and on about the feel, the smell of print books. I succumb to that myself. A brand new book’s smell will often bring a rush of happy memories from childhood, primarily related to the first days of a new school year. Yes, I was one of those kids who liked school, who looked forward to its start in summer. But, I ask, what do those things have to do with the content, the words?

Fancy fonts, thick paper, a sturdy hard cover – all these add heft to a book, contributing to its sense of gravitas, of importance. All this before you’ve read the first word! Behold the gorgeous flap jacket with its abundance of complimentary reviews – all valuable advertising, but advertising nonetheless. So much of the design of a physical book is just that: advertising. Eliminate all that and what is left? The words, just the words.

How often have you read a book that looked and felt important but were disappointed by the abundance of shallow ideas and cliches?

Ebooks are purer. The words count more. The words have to do far more of the heavy lifting once you strip away all of the bullshit inherent in print books. Ebooks are a more perfect embodiment of substance over style. Ebooks present a harsher environment for writers without all the silly adornments (Drop caps? Really?), for sure, but I think the world of literature will be better for it.

Wednesday, January 16, 2019

Book Review: Madison’s Music by Burt Neuborne

I recently finished reading Madison’s Music by Burt Neuborne. I really enjoyed reading it. The premise is that the Bill of Rights should be interpreted by looking at it as a whole, as a poem. The courts, over the course of our history, not just recently, has taken snippets of it and ruled based on cherry-picked portions of it. Most obviously, the second amendment rulings come to mind. It seems the only portion of that amendment the Supremes care about is “the right of the people to keep and bear arms, shall not be infringed.” The preceding words in that amendment, “A well regulated militia, being necessary to the security of a free state” is completely ignored. His book discusses the entire bill of rights, but his concept can be seen here in his discussion of the first amendment:
“Remember that Madison’s First Amendment narrates the odyssey of a democratic idea, (1) born in the conscience of a free citizen protected against government interference by the Establishment and Free Exercise Clauses and proceeding through: (2) freedom of speech (the public articulation of the idea); (3) freedom of the press (mass dissemination of the idea to the general public); (4) freedom of assembly (collective action on behalf of the idea); and (5) freedom to petition for a redress of grievances (insertion of the idea into the formal processes of democratic lawmaking).”

Page 76. Madison’s Music by Burt Neuborne
This paragraph, given the 2019 political reality we live in, caught my eye:
“Our democratic scorecard leaves a good deal to be desired. The Electoral College, with a vote allocation formula that overrepresents rural states and constantly threatens to choose (and twice has chosen) the loser of the popular vote as president, is nobody’s ideal of a distinguished way to elect a democratic chief executive. Nor can we be proud of our absurdly malapportioned Senate, where Montana, with 570,000 people, enjoys the same political representation as California, with 38 million, and where a filibuster rule enables senators representing 11 percent of the people to block laws desired by senators representing more than 89 percent. We certainly can’t brag about the way we elect members of the House of Representatives when more than 80 percent of the elections are rigged by gerrymandering, or about House procedures where, under current rules, 118 Republicans can prevent the remaining 317 members from voting on legislation. Nor can we be proud or our appalling approach to election administration and voter registration. We have the lowest electoral turnouts in the democratic world, especially by the poor. If more than half the people vote in a presidential election, we consider it a triumph. We get positively giddy if all the votes actually get counted. Finally, if someone tried, he couldn’t design a worse way to finance democracy than our judicially imposed campaign finance system, which guarantees the very rich, including large for-profit corporations, an absolute right to spend as much as they can in often successful efforts to manipulate voters and control elected officials.”

Page 148 – 149. Madison’s Music by Burt Neuborne
Good book. Worth reading.

Monday, January 14, 2019

Another Indie Publishing Success Story!

Another story of success for an indie publisher!
“Fortunately, I found readers who enjoyed my work, and by the end of 2011, I was making about $3,000 a month with four books out (Encrypted and the first three Emperor’s Edge books). The income went up and down (making Book 1 free was what gave me my first big boost) when looking at it on a monthly basis, but as I published more books, the trend headed upward over time. 
By 2013, I was making more than I ever had at my day job, and I’d long since transitioned to writing full-time. By 2015, I was making a lot more.
My first novel took seven years to finish. As you can see, I’ve learned to write more quickly, and I’ve published ten or more novels during each of the last three years. 
Increasing my writing speed started out mostly as a challenge to myself (other full-time authors were writing 6,000 to 10,000 words a day, so why couldn’t I?). Balanced on the Blade’s Edge was the first book I wrote quickly (from rough draft to a manuscript ready for my editor in less than a month). And I loved it.
Write more books; receive more income. (KM)
When I look back at my path, I’m so relieved I didn’t get a nibble from agents with that original handful of query letters, because traditional publishing is — let’s face it — a slow slog. Even if I’d been lucky enough to get a deal, I never would have replaced my day job income after two years (odds are, I wouldn’t have even seen my books published by then). 
But I believed then, as I believe now, that it’s possible to gain enough fans that you can make a living as a creator. So long as you’re willing to work on your craft and also be a bit of an entrepreneur. This doesn’t necessarily mean writing to market (though it’s certainly OK if you enjoy what the market is craving), just learning a little about marketing and writing books with enough commercial appeal to find an audience. 
I believe that you can still make a Book 1 in a series free and use social media, group promos, and small inexpensive ads to get readers to find and download your book. After that, it’s really up to you and the job you did with the story as to whether those readers will want to continue on (and are willing to pay to do so).”
As I’ve said many times, the book, the story, is what matters the most! (KM)

Friday, January 11, 2019

Indie Publishing Success in Utah

I'm not sure I agree with the title of this article: "Writing part is the easy part," but this article does talk about some authors having indie publishing success in Utah.

"Layton-based author Lesli Muir is hard at work preparing her 50th novel for publication ... She's independent both creatively and financially, and her earnings are in the six-figures. She considers herself a 'mild success.'"

Read the entire article.

Thursday, January 10, 2019

Part Three of Indie Publishing in 2019


Kristine Kathryn Rusch gives us more reasons to go wide, especially as it relates to libraries!
"I tell writers not to go to traditional publishers for novels any longer because of the copyrights grabs, which basically mean that the writer gives up control of their entire copyright for the life of the copyright … If a writer is going to lose control of her copyright for the life of that copyright by going to a traditional publisher, then the writer needs guarantees that the book will visit all the possible store shelves, and get enough visibility to make such a loss worthwhile. But that kind of guarantee is getting harder and harder, and the physical store shelves have gotten smaller and smaller. 
According to their own website, Overdrive is the leading digital reading platform for libraries and schools worldwide. They’re owned by Rakuten, which also owns Kobo. So if you upload your books to Kobo and put them live on Overdrive as well, you’ll find your work in 40,000 libraries and schools in 70 countries
D2D provides access to bibliotheca and other library services (and, nicely, has a clear chart explaining library pricing). Again, these programs get indie writers into libraries worldwide."

D2D is Draft 2 Digital – a service that takes your eBook to more than Amazon. (KM)
"On libraries alone, I feel sorry for traditionally published writers. They’re at the mercy of their publishers. For the past four years, it has become increasingly clear to me that there is no benefit to traditionally publishing a novel, from the contracts to the loss of copyright to the lack of distribution. 
Doing the research for things like this reminds me, every single time, how fortunate we are to have the ability to publish our own work and to keep our books in our control."

Read the entire article.

Tuesday, January 8, 2019

I'm Presenting at the Elgin Literary Festival!

It's official; I am presenting at the Elgin Literary Festival on Saturday, January 26th at 10 AM on the main stage. My presentation is entitled: Book Formatting Demystified. There are other presentations at the festival on writing, book marketing, finding a publisher... It's a worthwhile visit even if you don't care about formatting your book yourself!

Here's the description of my presentation:

If you are comfortable composing in Microsoft Word, you can format your book for Kindle or KDP Print yourself, saving hundreds in the self-publishing process. Book Formatting Demystified will walk you through the two primary features of Word that you must master to format your work. Mastery of these features will enable you to handle typical problem areas like page headers and page numbering. Even if you still prefer to outsource formatting, Book Formatting Demystified offers tips to make your formatter's job easier, while preserving your ideal writing environment for your most important tasks: composing and editing!
Can't make it? Buy the book! Available on Amazon, of course.





Monday, January 7, 2019

The Publishing World

First – a bit of humor from the UK. The headline: “Last human to use two spaces after a full stop dies.” It’s received 844,000 likes! Read it here (it's short).

So much about the state of the publishing business and what the future holds in this two part article (Part 1Part 2), with more to come. Well researched and insightful. If you are serious about selling books, you should read this.

"The disruption in the publishing industry will continue for some time now. Years, most likely. I don’t have a good crystal ball for how long it will go on, but we are past the gold rush years in the indie publishing world and have moved into a more consistent business model. It’s at least predictable, now. We know some patterns and how they’re going to work.

The system for measuring both readers and sales is so inadequate that we can’t count the readers we have, let alone the new readers who are coming into the book industry sideways. However, there is a lot of evidence—scattered, of course—that new readers are coming in. (I’ll deal with this in future weeks.)

Readership is growing, but individual sales are mostly declining. Traditional publishing’s fiction sales are down 16% since 2013.

Instead of a lot of readers reluctantly reading the latest blockbuster because they’re trapped in the airport and can’t find anything else to read, those readers are now downloading dozens of books on their phones, and reading a variety of things—some of which we don’t have measurements of. Those readers have left the blockbusters they barely liked behind and found books/authors they like better.

*****
What started this discussion were some alarming numbers from the Association of American Publishers [reported in Publisher’s Weekly], which can track fiction sales through traditional venues but not, mind you, sales figures from Amazon, which is the largest bookseller in the United States.

1) Sales of adult fiction titles fell 16% from 2013 to 2017.

2) That 16% represents a rather large dollar figure. Sales went from $5.21 billion to $4.38 billion.

Realize we are talking about traditional publishing here, not indie publishing at all. Those numbers aren’t really baked into the book sales numbers in any significant way. (Remember, Amazon isn’t counted here, and Kindle Unlimited isn’t reflected here at all.
Keep this in mind when you read ebook sales are declining! Fake news! (KM)*****
… traditional publishers are no longer the only game in town. Not even close. And they’ve got a really serious issue: their business model was built in the previous century. To make matters even worse, they’ve consolidated. None of the big traditional publishers are nimble in anyway. They’re part of large conglomerates who expect major earnings from each corporation under their huge umbrella.

A lot of the discussion was about what’s “wrong” with fiction sales. The discussion is lost in that traditional publishing bubble, thinking they’re still the only game in town. They talk about movies and TV as competition (what is this? 1960?) and claim that people are either reading nonfiction or aren’t reading much at all. Worse, they’re blaming Amazon for much of their problems—refusing to see that Amazon is their biggest client.

*****
Codex’s own research shows that a consumer generally reads three books by an author before becoming a regular reader of that author. We’ve seen that analysis many different times from many sources.

This is one of the reasons that authors that publish more books do better! (KM)*****
Traditional publishing is not going to build new writers into bestsellers. They’re not even trying.
*****
Amazon tweaks its model constantly and is consistently experimenting (daily) with new ways of doing things. They probably are going to a pay-to-play model. I hate to tell you this, folks, but pay-to-play is the heart of retail.
*****
The fiction market for books under five dollars is not declining but very healthy. Mark Williams in the New Publishing Standard believes as I do that fiction sales are growing. They’re just moving to harder to track places.

BookFunnel rolled out a feature that makes it easier for indie writers and publishers to host an estore on their own website. (Technically, the pages and the downloads will be on BookFunnel’s site.) Those of us who’ve been doing this for a long time have been clamoring for an easy way to sell our own books to consumers direct, and now we have it.

Those sales will be impossible track, since BookFunnel deliberately does not sell or report its data to other sites.

And that’s just one example of how book sales can happen outside of the usual tracking systems.
*****
So if you’re one of the writers who has been complaining about lower sales numbers and you’re Amazon-only, spend 2019 changing your business so that you can go wide."

Friday, January 4, 2019

Lost a Friend Last Night


I learned this morning that Frank Rutledge died last night, January 3, 2019.

Frank Rutledge was my friend. We met around 10 years ago. A group of us organized a poetry-reading tent at Batavia’s Art in Your Eye festival and he read there. Our shared interest in writing led us to work on other things together. I attended the writer’s group he led at the Batavia Library for a while. We started Early Morning Risers at Limestone – originally meeting to share and discuss short stories. We worked together, along with Heather Ruffalo and our leader, Ritta Basu, at FewerThan500.com. And of course, he was an important part of Waterline Writers. He was always supportive of all my attempts at writing. He was the one who really helped me appreciate poetry – even prose poetry. And, last but not least, he was also a fellow train geek. I hope he is now at peace.