Marketing

Pelican Books reimagines cover art for eBooks (HT: @ellenforsyth)

Interesting and cool:

As part of their recent relaunch, Pelican Books—the non-fiction arm of Penguin Books, which originally ran from 1937 to 1984—wanted to make covers just as important for e-books as they are for physical books. Their solution was to make the cover a recurring element throughout a text: the central thematic element that ties together a volume's design, whether physical or digital.

Check out the whole thing here: http://www.fastcodesign.com/3038698/how-pelican-books-is-reimagining-the-cover-in-the-age-of-e-books

Why I Canceled My Amazon Prime Account (Following Amazon's Spamming of My Inbox) (via @HuffPostBooks, HT: @katengh)

I almost don't have to add any commentary to this, because I also have cranky-faced opinions about Amazon, mostly revolving around their DRM and author-exclusivity contracts, neither of which are of any benefit to anyone except Amazon's attempts to become a publishing monopsony. Brooke Warner says:

For those of you who follow publishing news, or who are KDP authors, you know that on August 9, Amazon sent a very bizarre email to all of its KDP customers, which has been dissected best, in my opinion, here and here.

You can read the full email here, but this post is really about why I canceled my Amazon Prime account the next day.

Read her account and reasoning here: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/brooke-warner/why-i-canceled-my-amazon-_b_5690083.html

What I learned while editing a short story anthology (via @herodfel)

Disclaimer: I talk to Simon online and we've even met in meatspace to confirm we're both humans and not alien infiltrator units (unless we're both alien infiltrator units). Simon is publishing a short story of mine in the anthology he talks about in this post ('Suspended in Dusk') so I've been at the author's end of some of his exciting journey. I've also beta read some of Simon's work (I am notoriously merciless in this role) and he still talks to me, which is a good sign.

In this blog post Simon talks about his experience of putting together this 'anthology-that-almost-wasn't'. He's done an amazing job, and he's learned everything pretty much the hard way.

I've listed his points, including his original incorrect numbering at time of publication (just so Simon knows he can still make mistakes *coughs*)

  • 1. Aim High
  • 2. Connect. Network. Reach out.
  • 3. Be gracious, and don't be an ass
  • 4. Do your best work
  • 4. Roll with the punches
  • 5. Persevere
  • 6. Party

These sound like things that can be applied across the board in doing projects, of course, but Simon shows how they apply in this particular case. Take an excerpt from step 4 (ha ha), ie. 'Roll with the punches'):

When I started the Suspended in Dusk project, I originally intended to co-edit it with Nerine Dorman, who is one of the editors at Dark Continents Publishing.  Nerine and Dark Continents were sadly unable to continue with the project and it all looked like it was done and dusted.  By this point, however, I had already taken submissions from around 60 authors and was in the process of shortlisting and finalising the Table of Contents.  I won’t lie.. this was crushing for me. Projects not going ahead are relatively common in the publishing industry.. but I felt like I’d come so far. Not only was I heavily emotionally invested in the project, I didn’t want to let all the authors down. Nor did I want the embarassment of going back to many of the well known industry veterans and saying “hey, sorry, [show's] off!”.

Read his open and honest post-mortem here: http://simondewar.wordpress.com/2014/07/31/what-i-learned-while-editing-a-short-story-anthology/

Influence of Kindle Unlimited on Amazon "Bestsellers" Grows (via @PublishersLunch, HT: @JaneFriedman)

I don't much like the exclusivity clause, and the impact on authors who don't sign up to that. It feels a bit like handing your wages to a bank to manage, but the bank doesn't care about you, oh and also if you don't hand your life savings to that bank they stop bothering to maintain your credit history.

Amazon's hourly list of the top 100 "paid" Kindle bestsellers appears to be under the steadily growing influence of Kindle Unlimited "checkouts," which are counted as part of paid sales. In this morning's check, 45 of the top 100 titles are also available through Kindle Unlimited --  and 24 of the top 50 titles. Amazon Publishing's own titles still appear to be benefitting the most, and self-published authors who are not exclusive to Amazon (and therefore not part of KU) seem to have lost the most bestseller slots. (We still have no idea whether this is affecting actual paid sales, or just bestseller list slots.)

Read on for stats here: http://lunch.publishersmarketplace.com/2014/07/daily-update-influence-kindle-unlimited-amazon-bestsellers-grows/

Pubslush - Service for literary crowdfunding

Just an alternative to the well known KickStarter, for authors looking to do some crowdfunded publishing:

Pubslush is a global crowdfunding and analytics platform for the literary world. Our founders were inspired to create a more democratic publishing process after learning about the struggles of authors like J.K. Rowling, whose bestselling series was rejected by the 12 publishers to which it was initially sent. So many great authors have been dismissed to the infamous "slush pile." Our name is derived from our mission to give authors the opportunity to get out of the slush pile, prove their talent and market viability, and successfully publish quality books.

Check it out: http://pubslush.com/

On Their Death Bed, Physical Books Have Finally Become Sexy (via @nytimes, HT: @mikearnzen)

For the record, I've always thought physical books were sexy.

The Death of the Book has loomed over so many other eras, but today it seems more certain, at least when it comes to the physical book, because the e-book has been outselling the paper kind on Amazon since 2011. With reading, we all know what direction we’re now going in — it’s bright-at-night, it’s paved with e-paper, it’s bad for focus, it’s incredibly convenient. Those of us — myself included — who can’t yet bring themselves to read on a Kindle or an iPad feel increasingly fusty saying the same old thing: “I just like the feel of paper in my hand! The intimacy!” We preface the words with that thing about not being a Luddite. We talk about the fixity of real books, and the frightening impermanence of one you can download in seconds. We feel our sentences grow stale the second they leave our mouths.

Read it all here: http://www.nytimes.com/2014/04/27/magazine/on-their-death-bed-physical-books-have-finally-become-sexy.html

We’re losing all our Strong Female Characters to Trinity Syndrome (via @thedissolve, ht: @jacklscanlan)

With diversity finally getting a bit more stagetime in the industry (or at least discussions of diversity) it's tempting for lazy artists to pay, effectively, lip service to the notion of having female characters. For example, having stories with more female protagonists does not mean you can just genderswap a character and end up with female male characters, women saying man-things or navigating a man-world like a man. Or as Tasha Robinson discusses in this article, you can't just make an interesting female character then...just...forget about her:

There’s been a cultural push going on for years now to get female characters in mainstream films some agency, self-respect, confidence, and capability, to make them more than the cringing victims and eventual trophies of 1980s action films, or the grunting, glowering, sexless-yet-sexualized types that followed, modeled on the groundbreaking badass Vasquez in Aliens.

[snip]

[E]ven when they do, the writers often seem lost after that point. Bringing in a Strong Female Character™ isn’t actually a feminist statement, or an inclusionary statement, or even a basic equality statement, if the character doesn’t have any reason to be in the story except to let filmmakers point at her on the poster and say “See? This film totally respects strong women!”

Very good overview (with extra links) about the mistake of introducing Strong Female Characters who then are superfluous to the plot. The concern is summarised as:

For the ordinary dude to be triumphant, the Strong Female Character has to entirely disappear into Subservient Trophy Character mode. This is Trinity Syndrome à la The Matrix: the hugely capable woman who never once becomes as independent, significant, and exciting as she is in her introductory scene.

Important stuff, and a good checklist/questionnaire for writers to help figure out if you're inadvertently making some of these mistakes: http://thedissolve.com/features/exposition/618-were-losing-all-our-strong-female-characters-to-tr/

Death in modern culture (via @guardian)

An interesting discussion about the interest that the younger generation has in death and things related to death. Death is a bit of a taboo in modern Western society, as is its close friend, 'old age'.

As a teacher of writing, I am often asked why my students read such “morbid stuff”. Why do teenagers seek out stories about vampires and zombies and death and violence? Parents are particularly interested in this. Should they be making sure their kids are reading something more “wholesome”? Something about junior detectives solving local, non-violent crime perhaps? Something about the rescue of native animals and the hijinks they get up to?

I'm approaching this as a way to get an appreciation of what motivates readers to seek out, for example, horror fiction.

Check it out: http://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2014/jun/08/young-people-are-dying-to-talk-about-death

An Author’s Perspective on the Hachette-Amazon Battle (via @digibookworld, HT: @nztaylor)

Not much to add here. Michael Sullivan talks about the impacts on his book prices due to negotiations between Hachette and Amazon:

I was pretty sure Amazon and Hachette were in contract negotiations long before the announcement on May 9th when the New York Times broke the story. You see, on February 7th, the discounts for all my Riyria books listed on Amazon.com vanished, raising my ebooks from $8.59 – $8.89 to $9.99 and my print books from $11.41 – $13.80 to $16.00 or $17.00. What was even more disturbing, however, was the discounts on most of my fellow Orbit (the fantasy imprint of Hachette) author’s books disappeared as well. Even as I write this, I see the only paperbacks which are discounted are those in pre-release or books published in April or May. Also, the discounts are just 10% rather than the usual 25% – 30%. Even hardcover editions of front list titles such as Brian McClellan’s The Crimson Campaign (released May 6th), and James S.A. Cory’s latest book in The Expanse series (releasing June 17th) are currently full price.

There are graphs here, and scary numbers:

From this data I’ve seen my print book sales drop to 54.8% of what they were before this all started. There could be many reasons for this, but I’m concerned the higher price of my books, and the lack of their availability, has led many fantasy readers to opt for a book from other authors that were cheaper and easier to get. It also seems to indicate a good portion of my particular readership buys print books from Amazon, as listings at other sites remained unchanged.

Keeping in mind this is a single author's pespective, you ought to read on here: http://www.digitalbookworld.com/2014/an-authors-perspective-on-the-hachette-amazon-battle/

It just Got Even More Expensive To Make Your Book Visible (via @porter_anderson, HT: @publisherswkly)

I wonder what could possibly go wrong when a resource is controlled by a single entity:

Bowker, the US agency for ISBNs, has raised the cost of a pack of 10 of these book “identifier” codes, from $250 to $295.

And thus, it just became even costlier for an American self-publishing author to buy the universal identifier(s) needed to make a book “visible” to book-market tracking services.

Ironically, some observers will say that the move further hobbles the ISBN, itself. Its validity already is being called into question, as pricing and an association with old-industry “gatekeeping” continue to erode its usage. For some time now, the ISBN has been unable to give us a full picture of titles active in the market.

This is a really good read about the future of the ISBN. I'd not even considered that the publishing world had moved on from them, but it makes sense to question their necessity when there is this kind of price pressure, and when the marketing/tracking benefits of the existing system is lessening.

When O’Leary says that “most new entrants are not included or analyzed” by the use of ISBNs, he means that many self-publishing authors, in particular, elect not to buy them. And without ISBNs, their books can’t be “seen” moving through the bookish market system.

For short e-fiction I've always used UIDs, but for longer fiction I'd just assume I'd need an ISBN... And of course we have a class-war, too:

Many writers have told me, however, that if the price of ISBNs were more reasonable and fairer in comparison to the price paid by publishers (who can buy 1,000 at a time for a dollar each), they’d buy them.

Read it all here: http://thoughtcatalog.com/porter-anderson/2014/05/it-just-got-even-more-expensive-to-make-your-book-visible/

How Paperbacks Transformed the Way Americans Read (via @mental_floss, HT: @text_publishing)

It's good to have a read of this, just to give some perspective if you run into someone telling you how e-books are going to destroy the publishing industry, if such folks still exist.

Here’s a little perspective: In 1939, gas cost 10 cents a gallon at the pump. A movie ticket set you back 20 cents. John Steinbeck’s The Grapes of Wrath, the year’s bestselling hardcover book, was $2.75. For a nation suffering 20 percent unemployment, books were an impossible expense.

But in just one day, Robert de Graff changed that. On June 19, 1939, the tall, dynamic entrepreneur took out a bold, full-page ad in The New York Times: OUT TODAY—THE NEW POCKET BOOKS THAT MAY TRANSFORM NEW YORK’S READING HABITS.

The article is a really fascinating look at the last revolution in the industry, so worth a look. you can read it here: http://www.mentalfloss.com/article/12247/how-paperbacks-transformed-way-americans-read

Judging a Book by Its Cover: A 6-year-old Guesses What Classic Novels Are All About (via @Sunnychanel HT: @katengh)

This is an older post but still entertaining: Sunny Chanel's daughter is curious about books.

“Momma, what’s this book about?” That is a question that I hear every time we go to our local bookstore as my very curious six-year-old daughter picks up eye-catching books from various sections from fiction to biographies to psychology.

In an entertaining experiment Ms6 was presented with a range of classic and some not-so-classic book covers in order to see what she made of it:

Fifty Shades of Grey

"On the cover is a very weird looking Zebra. The book is about a zebra that wears pants. It’s a drama book about this zebra guy who likes to go fishing for aces."

And no, I have no idea what she meant by any of that either.

Have a laugh about it here: http://www.babble.com/mom/judging-a-book-by-its-cover-a-6-year-old-guesses-what-classic-novels-are-all-about/

How To Create Your Own Anthology (Or Small Press!) (via @jodicleghorn)

Jodi Cleghorn writes over at the eBook Revolution to give advice and tips on how to create your own anthology or small press. Disclosure! I know Jodi in the 'Real World' and she publishes my middle grade philosophical adventure novel, 'The Machine Who Was Also a Boy'. I also have a story in her collaborative anthology, 'From Stage Door Shadows.' However, I don't just endorse her because she holds power over me, no sir/ma'am; she legitimately knows her stuff:

In 2008 I wanted to know if it was possible for ten writers to write ten interconnected stories. The idea was for each author to pull a minor character from the [preceding] story for their protagonist and join the two stories with a common event. The end product would be a circular anthology.

Jodi breaks down the entire process into the following sections:

  • The Benefit of Digital Anthologies
  • Financial Concerns – What Are The Costs?
  • How To Articulate The Theme Or Concept
  • How Do You Choose The Authors?
  • Making Collaboration Work!
  • Ensure Quality
  • Production Issues To Watch Out For
  • Take Your Time – Don’t Reinvent The Wheel

It's a very detailed article, so definitely read through if you're thinking about venturing in this professional direction - you'll avoid a lot of problems. Read it all here: http://ebookrevolution.com.au/2014/04/how-to-create-your-own-writers-group-anthology-or-small-press/

On Piracy, Patreon and Tip Jars (via @chuckwendig)

The inimitable Chuck Wendig shares his opinion on the topics of piracy, Patreon and direct donations to authors. An anonymous commenter sent him a list of reasons why s/he downloads digital books without paying for them, and Chuck responds to all the points. I won't list all the reasons here (click through to Chuck's blog to read them), but Chuck's response to 'just add a donation button' is basically 'Nope', and he explains why:

If you want to help pay for this site, or put food in my kid’s mouth, or continue to support my flailing word-herdery in some fashion? You can. Right now.

You can buy my books.

Can't really argue with that.

Read the whole article here: http://terribleminds.com/ramble/2014/04/02/on-piracy-patreon-and-why-i-probably-wont-put-out-a-tip-jar/

Writer reveals details of subtle censorship (via: @lalarkinauthor, HT: @colvinius)

Very interesting development of what happened when Reader's Digest used a Chinese company to print a volume that included L.A. Larkin's thriller Thirst:

LOUISA LARKIN: This… yes. And they had been told by the Chinese printers that the presses had been stopped and that they wouldn't continue to print the condensed version of Thirst until the words 'Falun Gong' had been removed, and reference to 'torture' - the word 'torture' - of a character, a practitioner of Falun Gong, was either deleted or changed to a satisfactory level.

Read the full transcript here (or listen to the interview) to find out how Louisa and her publisher handled this. I'd like to think that most authors (including myself) have her level of conviction, but the lure of getting into print can be pretty strong: http://www.abc.net.au/pm/content/2014/s3976190.htm

Analysing a Writer's Process (via @balespen)

It's always great to get a look into how other writers manage this bizarre creative dance/job. Lucas Bale analyses his own writing processes from First Draft/Research through to Covers and Marketing:

As I’ve said, I plan pretty assiduously. I am currently working on the outline for the second book in the Beyond the Wall series. However, because the themes are central to the whole series, as well as individual books, and there is quite a bit of world-building going on, I find it easier to have a solid outline which I can depart from if I like or change when I want.

It's a great read if, like me, you suck at organising your writing or hope to get some insight into another writer's approach.

Check the whole article out here (including some great photos): http://www.lucasbale.com/blog/2014/3/26/lucas-bale-analysing-a-writers-process

 

What Does the Term "Successful Writer" Mean to You (HT: @WritersCentreAU)

Apologies for linking to a Buzzfeed listicle. However, there are some pretty photos here, of what ten writers at the American Writers & Writing Programs conference considered the term 'Successful Writer' to mean. To me, being a successful writer means having lots of readers who enjoy your writing.

Read the pretty pictures here: http://www.buzzfeed.com/saeedjones/what-does-successful-writer-mean-to-you

How One Author Learned to Love Social Media (After Really, Truly Hating It) (via @thewritelife)

I certainly waste spend a lot of my time on social media, convincing myself that chatting to people and engaging in conversations is somehow 'networking' when I could be writing more. Sound familiar? I'm sure it's just me.

Like so many other writers, I longed for the (nonexistent) days when a writer sent her work into the world and retreated to a nice, remote cabin where the royalties would be delivered by carrier pigeon.

Author Alicia de los Reyes talks about how she forced herself to get into social media to promote her books without coming across like a spam bot.

Personally, I want to live most of my small life in privacy, and I still refuse to join Facebook.

I'm not a huge fan of Facebook and it certainly doesn't seem to me to be a good platform for random discovery of your social media interactions by fans. That's probably an article for another day, though.

Read it all here: http://thewritelife.com/how-one-author-learned-to-love-social-media/

Book Covers: Before and After (via: @nytimes, HT: @writersnsw)

I dislike 'articles' with slideshow click-gathering monetisation gimmicks, but sometimes you have to roll with the punches. The New York Times features various revisions of recent well known novel covers, with commentary from the designers. It's a really good look if you're interested in cover design in general, or are looking to design or source your own covers:

Five designers discuss their work on recent book covers: first concepts that didn’t make the final cut, and then the cover as published (and in this installment, one cover that was accepted on the first try).

Full link here: http://www.nytimes.com/slideshow/2014/02/05/books/05before-and-after.html

On 70% Royalties (via @krasnostein, HT: @sircamaris)

Alisa Krasnostein discusses a little bit about the notion that by self-publishing an author automatically receives a 70% royalty (running on the industry 'standard' of Amazon and iTunes pocketing 30% of your sales):

I’ve run the maths of going to digital only publishing to play with the business model. I’ve also tried to look at offering our ebooks at that $0.99 or $1.99 price point. I really hope we don’t see this flux in the business model end up with books only costing 99 cents. It’s such a huge undervaluation of what it costs to produce the product. To think that you deserve 70% royalties means you think that the cover artist, the book designer, the layout, the editors, the proofers, the marketers and promoters, the promotion material including launch events, and overheads like electricity, software, website management, bank charges, fees for online sales transactions and so many other costs, as well as publisher reputation and branding should somehow be covered by that 30%.

As always, publishing models are very dependent on individual circumstance.

But, just musing personally... I'm surprised that someone proudly flaunting a 70% royalty (as a proxy for 'selling my own product on Amazon/iTunes') doesn't take issue with the 30% surcharge Amazon and iTunes charge. What are you getting for your 30%? File hosting? Really? Discoverability? I suppose. DRM? [Insert hyena-pitched-laughter].

Link to the original here: http://champagneandsocks.com/2014/02/18/on-70-royalties/