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 bran 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.

One Person's Prediction of Publishing Trends in 2019

came across this article about the top ten publishing industry trends in 2019 and think it was a good summary of what we should pay attention to in the coming year.

A major point is that indie publishers have to do a better job with editing. Self-published books have a reputation for poor editing: typos, punctuation and grammatical errors. I’m giving a presentation at the Elgin Literary Festival on Saturday, January 26th. I’m pretty sure my time slot is 10 AM, that’s what I’ve been told, but the official schedule is not out yet. In one of my first few slides I state that the most important elements to a successful book are: Story and editing, Cover, and Blurb. But, story is paramount. I say the same thing at the beginning of my latest book: Book Formatting Demystified.

From the article:

"A consistent issue raised by readers was the prevalence of typos and grammatical errors in independently published books. Low book quality can lead to poor reviews or readers giving up on a book or an author altogether. As Debbie Young says in her piece Why Book Marketing Doesn’t Trump Writing Craft, “Even if you have endless financial resources to invest heavily in great covers, professionally-written persuasive blurbs and extensive advertising, readers who do not enjoy what’s inside this enticing gift wrap will not come back for more.”

More independent authors will see real income from book sales and will be able to quit their “day jobs.” Last April, Amazon CEO Jeff Besos revealed that over a thousand independent authors surpassed $100,000 in Kindle Direct Publishing (KDP) royalties in 2017. As self-publishing ebooks, physical books and audiobooks continues to get easier, with the help of distributors like Draft2Digital and Findaway Voices, the success of independent authors will continue to grow.

Becoming a name in a specific niche will be one of the best drivers of sales." 
Read the entire article.

From Debbie Young’s article (referenced in the previous article):

"Craft and marketing. One cannot make up for the other. Study both with reckless abandon … The speed at which it’s possible to publish books – at the touch of a button – ends up with the release of too many poorly written books, and with too many authors wondering why their massive marketing efforts fall flat."
Read her entire article

Tuesday, January 1, 2019

Writers: Don't Get Fleeced! Can't Repeat This Enough


One of the most useful websites available to self-published authors is Writers Beware. Their mission: “Shining a bright light into the dark corners of the shadow-world of literary scams, schemes, and pitfalls.” In January, they released a list of 12 so-called publishers you should steer away from. In December, they added 21 more to the list! In addition, there are a couple of pay-to-play review outfits that are mentioned in the scam companies – if you see them listed in an outfit your are looking at, you should reconsider.
“Not all the clones offer publishing services, but they all offer "marketing": press releases. Paid book review packages. Book fair exhibits. Ingram catalog listings. Hollywood book-to-screen packages. These and more are junk marketing – PR services of dubious value and effectiveness that are cheap to provide but can be sold at a huge markup. 
There also appears to be a relationship between the clones and a pay-to-play book review service that operates under two names: Hollywood Book Reviews and Pacific Book Review. A large number of clones include reviews from this service in their marketing packages (as, in fact, does Author Solutions).”

January 2018 List:
  • LitFire Publishing d.b.a. Amelia Book Company and Amelia Publishing
  • Legaia Books
  • Stratton Press
  • ReadersMagnet
  • Toplink Publishing
  • Book-Art Press Solutions
  • Window Press Club
  • Westwood Books Publishing (formerly Greenberry Publishing), also d.b.a. Authors Press
  • BookVenture Publishing
  • Okir Publishing d.b.a. ADbook Press and Coffee Press
  • Zeta Publishing
  • Everlastale Publishing
December 2018 Additions to the List:
  • Ascribed LLC (very probably also d.b.a. Outstrip LLC)
  • AuthorCentrix (formerly BookBlastPro)
  • AuthorLair
  • Black Lacquer Press & Marketing
  • Book Agency Plus
  • Book Magnets
  • Book Reads Publishing
  • Book Vine Press
  • BookWhip / Carter Press
  • Capstone Media Services
  • Global Summit House
  • Goldman Agency
  • Maple Leaf Publishing
  • Matchstick Literary
  • Outstrip LLC (very probably also d.b.a. as Ascribed LLC)
  • PageTurner Press and Media
  • Paramount Books Media
  • Sherlock Press
  • Stonewall Press (formerly Uirtus Solutions)
  • URLink Print and Media
  • The Writer Central

Please, before you sign up with a firm, check them out on Writers Beware. Google them. Ask me. There are many companies who only wish to separate naive writers from their money – don’t fall for their pitch!

Monday, December 31, 2018

Misinformation From Someone Trying to Sell You Something

One of the blogs I follow had an article from Authorlink that was just so inaccurate that I have to comment here. I've copied portions of the article and my comments are in italics.

"Let’s say you uploaded your masterpiece and put it on sale for a month before you discover a dreadful typographical error. And while the book was on sale you had 100 sales. When you deactivate that book from displaying on Amazon, any sales ranking you have accumulated will be lost and to accumulate ratings and reviews you’ll have to start over from zero. That means it is important to get it right on the very first try. We have known authors who spent weeks trying to replace faulty files in the Amazon upload system.

Even when you have corrected the errors you must start the whole upload process over again. You can’t simply overwrite the file. You must delete the bad file before you upload the corrected version, a time-consuming task."

Both of these are incorrect. You simply upload the new file to KDP. I’ve done it dozens of time just this year. Nothing is lost – no reviews, no ranking – nothing. Obviously, the author has never worked with KDP – ever.

"First, to sign up for the 70% plan means you are giving up your right to sell the book anywhere else except Amazon. That means you forfeit the chance to sell to another 20%-40% of the English-speaking market."

Not true. You have to price the book between $2.99 and $9.99. That’s it. The exclusivity arrangement only applies to KDP Select and some of the promotional programs.

"The retailer, too, can choose to sell your book at a price below your list price, minus delivery costs and any applicable Value Added Tax. Add-on costs can eat away at your earnings."

Not normally true. True, Amazon can choose to sell your Kindle or printed book for whatever they choose (just like Barnes & Noble), but the royalty, with only a couple of exceptions, is based on the LIST PRICE.

From KDP Digital Pricing page: 70% Royalty Rate x (List Price – applicable VAT - Delivery Costs) = Royalty

This is only for books under the Kindle MatchBook program or the Kindle Countdown Deals program: 70% Royalty Rate x (Promotional List Price – applicable VAT - Delivery Costs) = Royalty

***

Are delivery costs that big a deal? Sometimes. Delivery costs for the US market at Amazon.com: $0.15/MB.

Based on the last two projects I did:
  • 91,351 word novel - the delivery cost is $0.18 cents.
  • 130,328 word non-fiction book with 113 images, covering 72 pages, (which formatted perfectly in Kindle Previewer from the source Word file!) - the delivery cost is $4.68.

So, delivery cost can be significant. But, how many books have 72 pages of pictures and 113 images?
"Amazon devices have very limited support for such rich media. Its KF8 device supports text or region magnification and that’s about all."

From the Kindle Create User Guide: You can add audio, video, and image plug-ins to your eBook as icons. Kindle Create accepts the following file types: Video: .mp4 Audio: .mp3 Images: .jpg, .jpeg or .png.

If you are technically talented enough to create a multi-media extravaganza for your ebook, you will figure out how to get it into the Kindle. Personally, I'm not interested. I like to read books. I don't need, or want, all the whizbang gizmos to distract me. 

My final word:

Not all books are suitable for a Kindle. Not all genres sell well on a Kindle. If you have a book with a lot of highly formatted pictures, illustrations, tables – it might not be suitable for that platform. If you are writing a novel, or a non-fiction work, it probably will be worth your time to put it on the Kindle platform. But, this article paints an extremely inaccurate picture for all types of books. Don't believe everything you read, especially when the author has something to sell!


Wednesday, December 26, 2018

Thoughts on Publishing and Facebook Privacy


Today’s blogs had some interesting articles.

First, a missive declaring the semicolon evil! I found this entertaining and somewhat true also. Someday I will write my own piece about the evils of the em-dash and ellipses!


*****

There is nothing really all that new in the next article, but this does bear repeating:

Stop Looking For Secrets!
Finally stop looking for insider tips, even like this. The secret to writing success can be summed up in two words: perseverance and hard work. Focussing on these two aspects for success, you will see progress in your chosen profession.”


*****

One of the ways to succeed on Amazon is to be in the top-10 of your publishing genre. One way to do that is to write a book in a genre with very little competition. Do any of your books fit into these new categories?

http://www.theindependentpublishingmagazine.com/2018/11/6-emerging-book-genres-we-bet-you-havent-heard-of-ester-brierley-guest-post.html

*****

Lastly, I have been thinking about social media lately. I saw Guy Kawasaki on CNBC recently talking about Facebook’s latest privacy issues. He said that we have to stop being so naive. The social media companies (Google, Facebook, and Twitter primarily) are giving us tools without asking us for money. But, of course they are getting something out of the deal. How else could they become some of the most valuable companies on the planet? I feel I get value from Google. I get world-class email, Google Drive, Google Docs, Google Photos, Blogger… I use them all and appreciate them. So, they get some information from me – it’s a trade-off I’m OK with. Facebook? Less so. I get some value, but far less. I’ve deactivated my account a number of times, but have so far gone back and reactivated it every time. I feel I need it. I need it to promote causes and organizations I care about. But, I did go in today and adjust my privacy and security settings to give them as little information as possible, knowing that they still will garner some data from my presence. The following article takes a stronger stance, claiming that given what we now know we should delete our Facebook accounts.

https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2018/dec/21/quit-facebook-privacy-scandal-private-messages

PS - Odds are good that I will once again deactivate my Facebook account, maybe this time for good. I made a comment on a friend's post. I was agreeing with the post, sharing what I thought was a different angle on the issue. He unfriended me! And he wasn't pleasant about it at all. Obviously I did not explain myself well - it's on me. But, it just reminded me that Facebook and Twitter are not good places to discuss issues, especially in the comments section. It's more frustrating than it's worth.