Self-Publishing

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

Self-Publishing Versus Traditional Publishing (via @AnnabelSmithAUS)

I don't have a horse in this race, since I'm a short story writer and so basically live in a version of the 'traditional' publishing universe (ie. there's not yet a solid short fiction self-publishing streak that I'm aware of. Certainly Amazon's 'singles' offering is simply awful). I like to offer as much information to people deciding about which path to take (and remember you can take both, in some circumstances). Remember that when you are self-publishing you are taking on a huge chunk of the business management of writing that you normally wouldn't have to worry about. Annabel Smith has done both:

The advent of self-publishing on a mass scale has ben the single biggest change to the publishing industry since the arrival of the paperback at the turn of the last century. While some people dismissed it as a fad, it looks like it’s here to stay. My first two novels – A New Map of the Universe and Whisky Charlie Foxtrot – were traditionally published, but when it came to my third novel The Ark – a digital, interactive experimental speculative-fiction – I was unable to find a publisher who felt like the right fit and I decided to go it alone.

These are some of the perks and pitfalls I discovered on my self-publishing journey.

As per usual I'm just going to show herpoints. Click through to the original article for a detailed look at each point:

The Cons of Self-Publishing

  1. Self-Publishing Costs Money & You May Not Break Even
  2. Discoverability is an Ongoing Challenge
  3. Self-Publishing Consumes Time Which Could be Spent Writing

And the Pros

  1. Total Control
  2. Better Financial Returns
  3. Better Understanding of the Publishing Process

Check out the details here: http://www.natashalester.com.au/2014/09/29/self-publishing-versus-traditional-publishing-advice-author-whos-done/

Sunday Services - Tablo - Create, Share & Discover Great Books (HT: @galercristo)

My good friend Nicholas Roots discovered this on a podcast for me, and I had a quick look into the service. It's a beautiful and very glossy website, and an interesting service. You can write and prepare your work, while your fans can read your in-progress work. When you're done, you can publish the ebook directly. The site describes it as follows:

You can drop in a document.

If you've already written a book, just drop the document into Tablo and watch the magic happen. Preview the results & edit in the cloud. You'll be a published author in seconds!

 

Or you can write in the cloud.

With a clean, focused writing environment, chapter control, autosaving & plenty of sharing features, you'll love creating your book with Tablo. It's a literally awesome place to write (get it?).

 

Preview in the browser, download to your device.

Spin up a perfect preview of your eBook with a click, or download ePub files for a more thorough test. If you know how to write (and you probably do), you can create gorgeous eBooks for the iPad, Kindle and more.

 

Publish globally in seconds.

This is the cool part. Click a button and your books will be published on Amazon and the iBooks Store. Tablo assigns ISBNs, produce your files and distributes your books globally. It's as easy as publishing a blog post.

But.

But I had a look at the plans, and maybe I'm missing something, but this does not seem sustainable to me.

The publishing plans range from $8/mth (paid annually) to $30/mth. At $8/mth (in perpetuity) you can publish a single book (including free ISBN) to various online bookstores, and keep all the royalties.

But... but when you stop your subscription those books are suspended from the stores. With a cap of 1 book publishable in total at the lowest plan, and 10 at the highest (contact them for custom plans that support more books), it seems like your subscription fee would rapidly eat up any royalties, and totally kill the 'long tail' effect of having a broad catalogue for fans to purchase.

What this kind of price pressure produces is a need to sell eBooks at more than $5 a pop, which I would call the 'danger zone of customer detachment'. ie. A price range where you lose the casual interest of readers, which impacts the discovery and sharing of your work.

I can't comment as to whether the social aspect of the site will make up for this cost, but I just don't know how it could. Perhaps someone has experience with Tablo, or someone can clarify it for me.

In any case, check it out here. A free account can't hurt, and you can always try to use it to build up a fan following which might translate into sales, as long as you publish elsewhere: https://tablo.io/

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/

The costs and benefits of publishing your own books (via @bbc, HT: @tglong)

Kevin Peachey interviews Nick Spalding, on eof the UK's bestselling self-published authors. Now we all know there is no simple solution to working out whether self-publishing is a good idea for a given author, but getting insights into how it works for some people might just give you the extra piece of information you need to make a call for your particular situation:

Some years ago, he wrote what he admits was an experimental novel, unlikely to be touched by a traditional publisher.

But he then discovered that he could upload his work, and sell it to people reading e-books.

"I remember my aim was to earn enough money for my partner and I to go for a meal," he says.

"Because it was so easy to do, and because I started to earn a little more money and build up a small following, that prompted me to write another book, then another and another."

Read it here: http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/business-28268014

You Can Only Fund Your Tortoise’s Penis Surgery Once Or, Why Crowdfunding Doesn’t Work for Content (via @LenKendall), HT: @peterjblack

How can you resist a title like that? It didn't even end on, 'How they did it will amaze you!' Len Kendall talks about funding content as a creative professional:

Crowdfunding is a short-term solution

So what are content producers to do? Amanda Palmer says that artists should not fear “asking” for monetary support, and I tend to agree with her. Kickstarter has made the art of asking easier because it makes the value exchange very simple. You’re asking people to pledge X and when the 30 days is up they’ll get Y. Even if their pledge is nothing but a thank you, it feels easier for creators to go about asking for money this way because the campaign feels temporary and the outcome feels very tangible.

The problem however is that you can't pull this off more than once, if that. Once you’ve cashed the crowdfunding chip, it’s going to feel exponentially more awkward if you do it again 6 months later.

A better option might be something like Patreon.com, where you subscribe to an artist's output. Len also points to his company CentUp as a means to manage business relationships with fans. I'll explore that service a bit and might report back if it captures my imagination.

Check the full article out here: https://medium.com/best-thing-i-found-online-today/1aae54688874

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 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/

Deciding between traditional publishing and self-publishing (via @tody_ZA, HT: @ArmandAuthor)

Azhar Lorgat contributes to the discussion about how to approach publishing:

In today’s world, the decision between embracing the ways of the digital age or going with the traditional route is a complex battle that each individual artist must face. Unfortunately finding the answer can be exceptionally tough because so many people will have different opinions about it, and you’ll probably go half-crazy like I did spending your hours reading through hundreds of opinions on the internet. There are just too many good reasons on both sides.

He goes through four basic categories to discuss how they might impact your decision (read on at the bottom for his discussion on each of these topics). And remember, this is not an either-or discussion. I suggest you go through this process for each project you want published.

  • Your Personality
  • Your Reasons For Writing
  • What You’re Actually Writing
  • Your Circumstances

Read on for his conclusion here: http://azharlorgat.com/2014/02/20/deciding-between-traditional-publishing-and-self-publishing/

Inside My Kickstarter Project (via @briandunning)

This is a post from over a year ago, but I found it in my bookmarks and it's always helpful to get insight into accounting on publishing projects. Brian Dunning shares his costs for self-publishing his book. Interesting to see things like estimates and actuals for people whose pledges failed to go through, etc.

The most notable thing about the campaign is that pledges ended up being double the amount I’d hoped for. Let’s see how that affected the accounting for everything:

Check out the details here: http://skeptoid.com/blog/2013/12/08/inside-my-kickstarter-project/

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

Baboon Fart Odyssey (via @cstross)

You may or may not have seen Chuck Wendig's joke about being able to create an ebook with 100,000 instances of the word 'fart', slap a cover of a baboon peeing into its own mouth on it, and self-publish it on Amazon:

This is true-ish, in that I can literally write the word “fart” 100,000 times and slap a cover of baboon urinating into his own mouth, then upload that cool motherfucker right to Amazon. Nobody would stop me. Whereas, at the Kept Gates, a dozen editors and agents would slap my Baboon Fart Story to the ground like an errant badminton birdie.

It was a joke, although not everyone saw the humor in it (as is true always of jokes). Nonetheless, @phronk went to a lot of effort to make the joke real, and because jokes can go viral it quickly gathered more reviews than the average book (most were 5 stars of course) as well as likely earning more money than most authors see in their lifetime (this is not a joke, and actually only needs to be a small number to be true - the long tail is long, folks).

Charles Stross threw in some commentary of his own. The book isn't just fart repeated over and over; it's broken into paragraphs and sentences with punctuation and so forth. It raised this interesting question:

If I take an existing novel and replace all the words with words of my own, retaining only the punctuation and pagination, is this plagiarism?

And this raises the converse idea: taking Baboon Fart Story's structure, and replacing each instance of the word 'fart' with an actual english word to craft a coherent narrative!

There is much more of course, and it's worthwhile reading here: http://www.antipope.org/charlie/blog-static/2014/02/baboon-fart-odyssey.html#more

Improving one’s plot in life: why Matthew Reilly’s books sell (via @conversationEdu, HT @eventmechanics)

Jen Webb discusses a recent news story about successful Australian author Matthew Reilly:

Aristotle said it first: if you want to write a good story (or, in his terms, a good tragedy), you must have two things: plot, and character. Plot is, for Aristotle, “the arrangement of the incidents” — the causal relations between things, people and events. Character refers to the individuals who are the actors in that plot, and all their personal qualities and moral capacities, along with the relationships they have with each other and with the choices they have to make.

I'm not and have never been a fan of Matthew Reilly's writing, but I certainly applaud his successful approach: http://theconversation.com/improving-ones-plot-in-life-why-matthew-reillys-books-sell-22644

Self-Publishing: How to Pick the Size of your Book (via @jfbookman)

A detailed article from The Book Designer on considerations for your self-published print book, including the different formats and sizes offered by the various online printing services and distributors:

Some pricing on digital books is in a range of sizes rather than having a different price for every different size, but that only helps a bit.

If you plan to print offset, you’ll need to specify the exact size in your request for an estimate. So one way or the other, it’s good to figure out near the beginning of your planning.

I can't really add much to this. If you are looking into self-publishing in print I'd click through right now.

Full article here: http://www.thebookdesigner.com/book-sizes/

Earnings from Self-Publishing (via @pattyjansen)

Patty Jansen posted her self-publishing earnings from Sept 2012 to 2013. I love these detailed posts, as there is so much misinformation flying around about  how lucrative (or not) self-publishing can be.

Inspired by others on the web who have done so, I’m going to do a numbers post. Mainly for reference, but also to show people what the income of a no-name self-publishing writer with moderate success looks like. Just to give some datapoints other than the millions reportedly made by others.

No spoilers here though, you'll have to click through to read for yourself if you enjoy these kinds of things as much as I do: http://pattyjansen.com/blog/my-earnings-from-self-publishing-sept-2012-sept-2013/

Thanks Patty!

Kobo Purges Store of Random (Small/Indie) eBooks (via: @PandoDaily, @penenberg, HT: @dangillmor)

Adam Penenberg (editor of PandoDaily) writes about his experience of having his books (two thrillers) swept up in what seems like a giant overreaction by Kobo. This seems to have been spurred by British publisher WHSmith, which took down its entire website because some of Kobo's eBooks (which were passed through into their catalogue automatically) offended their sensibilities. Adam writes:

Kobo’s rash move came on the heels of another rash move by a British publisherWHSmith, which has taken down its entire website, leaving a statement on its homepage. The company said it’s “disgusted” by “a number of unacceptable titles” that have been “appearing on our website through the Kobo website that has an automated feed to ours.”

The bigger issue here is that the purge broadly affects books that couldn't remotely be expected to fall into what Kobo describes as: '“pedophilia, incest, bestiality, exploitation and sexual violence or force”', and disproportionately those by smaller publishers:

It’s hard to believe Kobo’s claims that it’s “inspired by a ‘Read Freely’ philosophy,” which “stems from Kobo’s belief that consumers should have the freedom to read any book, any time, anyplace — and on any device.” That is, unless you want to read my two novels, and thousands of other titles that are not erotica and were either self-published or published by small, independent presses.

Seems like a knee-jerk reaction that will cost Kobo a lot of goodwill.

Read Adam's article in full here: http://pandodaily.com/2013/10/15/kobos-porn-purge-hits-a-lot-of-innocent-bystanders/

What I learned from running a Kickstarter (via @blessedstsean)

This Kickstarter post-mortem describes acquiring funding for a 24 Hour Comics Day day, but the lessons apply equally to your own creative project.

[N]ow that my ulcers have healed, I want to share with you: what I learned in all those hours of anxious devotion to a goal whose success or failure was becoming very, very personal.

St Sean of the Knife condenses his main points looking back over this particular project down to:

  1. I Love My Friends, But They Can’t Pay For My Hobbies.
  2. Develop A Fan-Base Early On.
  3. HYPE HYPE HYPE (Wide and Well, But Don’t Be An Asshole).
  4. Support Is Out There. Sorta.
  5. I Still Don’t Understand Why Some Projects Are Funded And Other are Not.

Point 5 is true of all creative projects. 'Why is [author x] selling millions of copies when the writing is so terrible?' The answer is 'luck' or any number of factors combining in a way indistinguishable from luck.

Click through and have a read. This is a really personal and frank account of the sort of pitfalls you will more than likely encounter on your way through the savage wilds of crowdfunding.

Original here: http://www.orthocomics.com/wordpress/2012/10/19/what-i-learned-from-running-a-kickstarter/

Self-Publishing One Year On (via @ian_sales, HT @LindaNagata)

Ian Sales discusses his experiences and sales after winning the BSFA for his self-published novella, Adrift on the Sea of Rains:

Commercially, Whippleshield Books has not been a “winner”. I’m okay with this – I didn’t set it up to make me pots of money. If anything, I expected it to be a financial burden for much of its life. Happily, it went into the black in March this year… but then the ecommerce annual fee came due and I also had to reprint Adrift on the Sea of Rains. But it’s been back in the black since the beginning of May and seems likely to remain there. Whether it’ll have earned enough to pay the cost of producing book three of the Apollo Quartet is a different matter, however. I’ve been funding Whippleshield Books out of my own pocket so far, so if it doesn’t it won’t affect my planned publishing schedule.

Ian throws out a handful of graphs, and gives some indication of where and how the majority of sales are coming about (hint: Kindle sales, gods help us all). There's also some insight into what doesn't affect sales, and observations about the luck factor of making it big in self-publishing. Worth a read, especially for self-publishers or writers still trying to decide which approach will work best for them.

Check it out here: http://iansales.com/2013/05/31/self-publishing-one-year-on/

New Smashwords Survey Helps Authors Sell More eBooks (via @markcoker, HT: @thecreativepenn)

Mark Coker from Smashwords has collated the results of a Smashwords author survey, and there's a whole bunch of fancy graphs and juicy data in there. I'll just post the headers for each section, to give you an idea. It's really great information, and if you want to optimise your strategy for selling books you certainly can't go wrong with some Cold, Hard Survey Result Facts.

  1. Ebook Sales Conform to a Power Curve
  2. Viva Long Form Reading:  Longer Books Sell Better
  3. Shorter Book Titles Appear to Have Slight Sales Advantage
  4. How Indie Authors are Pricing Their Books:  $2.99 (USD) is the Most Common Price Point
  5. How Price Impacts Unit Sales Volume:  Lower Priced Books (usually) Sell More Copies
  6. The Yield Graph: Is $3.99 the New $2.99?
  7. A Closer Look at the Yield Graph Reveals Why Indie Ebook Authors Have a Competitive Advantage over Traditionally Published Authors

There really is too much for me to post without spoilering the lot (yes, spoilering is a word now*), but I found this an interesting comment from Mark:

Already, many successful indies, borrowing from the playbook of publishers, are assembling freelance teams of editors, cover designers, formatters and distributors.  Tell me again, what can a publisher do for the ebook author that the author already do for themselves faster, cheaper and more profitability?

In general I'm in the camp of 'assemble a team of freelance professionals to produce a book'. I realise that some authors are capable of being the person who does that assembling, and that other authors are more than capable of doing all those tasks themselves, and I'm also aware that this approach is quite expensive. I think it produces the best books though. Not that I have any evidence of this.

Anyway, read the survey results and Mark analysis. It's very interesting: http://blog.smashwords.com/2013/05/new-smashwords-survey-helps-authors.html

(*send your hate mail to Shakespeare)