Self-Publishing News: 5.15.2017

And now for the news!

Some highlights from this week in the world of self-publishing:

Beginning in March, Amazon began a policy which allowed third-party sellers the right to purchase the “Buy Box” for new books being sold on Amazon. Why is this such a big deal? Traditionally, by default, the “Buy Box” has always been something that belonged to the original publisher of the book. That way, when you purchase a book, 45% of the profits go back to the publisher, and in turn, help pay authors. “This contributes to authors’ royalties,” says Brook Warner, “and also means that your purchase is supporting the entity that published the book, namely the publisher.” Warner suggests that this policy not only favors the largest third-seller parties, but it drastically affects publishers and authors.

Warner is affiliated with the publishing industry, so she has seen first hand the negative impacts of this change. One of the authors published under Warner’s press called her to inform her that her book was no longer being offered at all on Amazon from her publisher. If someone were to search for the title of her book, the only available purchase options were from third-party publishing companies. “Amazon’s policy states that ‘eligible sellers will be able to compete for the buy box,’” says Warner, “but in this case, we had been completely wiped off of Amazon as an eligible seller in any capacity, without being notified.” After more investigation, Warner found that some books published by a company she used to work at, Seal Press, were only offering copies from third-party sellers.

The problem with this new policy, according to Warner, is that it affects publishers’ backlist for books “(typically meaning any book that’s six months or older).” To someone buying the book, it appears as though the third-party seller is the only available purchase option, and if they did click the “more buying options” button, it would only alert them to cheaper versions of the book, not the one for sale by the publishing company which is listed as “sold by Amazon.com,” with no nod to the publishing company at all. Because small publishing companies are especially dependent on backlist sales, and because Amazon is the main source for backlist sales, Amazon is making it look as though a lot of these books are out of print with their publishing companies when in fact, they are not.

What are the biggest takeaways from this new policy by Amazon? For Warner, it is that they are trying to further drive down the value and cost of books, something they’ve already done with their ebooks by encouraging authors to sell their books for under $10 by giving the incentive of better royalties if they do so. Further, this makes it so that authors can’t earn royalties for the sale of their books. Amazon has suggested to people who are upset about the “buy box” competition that they should keep their books in stock which is problematic for self-published authors or backlist authors whose books are only available by print-on-demand, which are only printed to order, i.e. out of stock. “This new third-party seller policy is potentially terrorizing,” says Warner, “in that it can and will literally result in publishers selling fewer copies and ultimately being forced to declare backlist books out of print.”

In order to counter this effort by Amazon Warner suggests supporting indie bookstores, avoiding third-party sellers and always considering how your purchase will affect the authors, especially if you yourself are an author. Driving down the cost of books means driving down the value of your creative and intellectual property, which as authors we should all value very highly.


spa-news

As a self-publishing author, you may find it helpful to stay up-to-date on the trends and news related to the self-publishing industry.This will help you make informed decisions before, during and after the self-publishing process, which will lead to a greater self-publishing experience. To help you stay current on self-publishing topics, simply visit our blog every Monday to find out the hottest news. If you have other big news to share, please comment below.

KellyABOUT KELLY SCHUKNECHT: Kelly Schuknecht is the Executive Vice President of Outskirts Press. In addition to her contributions to the Outskirts Press blog at blog.outskirtspress.com, Kelly and a group of talented marketing experts offer book marketing services, support, and products to not only published Outskirts Press authors, but to all authors and professionals who are interested in marketing their books and/or careers. Learn more about Kelly on her blog, kellyschuknecht.com.

In Your Corner: Optimize your Amazon presence!

Amazon is, for all intents and purposes, the powerhouse when it comes to the book distribution process.  It doesn’t seem to be a temporary thing, either; authors and publishers alike simply must acclimate to the fact that to sell a lot of books, they first must tailor their Amazon presence to be an attractive one.  And Amazon seems to have good intentions insofar as providing resources goes: its architects have dedicated incredible resources to creating better ways to connect authors with their readers.

There are a lot of ways to promote your book on Amazon, and since sales through this website may very well account for a large percentage of your overall book sales, it’s worth making sure you’re aware of all of the options!

amazon warehouse

The first step, of course, is to figure out what you’re doing right.

To do this, locate your book listing on Amazon by searching the title or ISBN.  Once your book listing is fully loaded, make sure your cover is showing.  If it isn’t there yet, make sure to upload a quality image for your readers to view–preferably at a high resolution.  Double-check that all of the information on display is accurate, and check back every few weeks to make sure it stays up-to-date and glitch-free.  This all is predicated on the assumption, of course, that you already have your book for sale on Amazon … but what if you don’t?

Create an Author Central account.

This account differs from the normal customer account you may already have on Amazon as a result of buying something (or many things).  An Author Central account allows you to better manage your books, and the process is free, so there are zero reasons not to create one.  To begin, navigate to authorcentral.amazon.com and register your profile, following the on-screen prompts to add your books to your bibliography, create a blog, edit or revise your online descriptions, and use a number of other tools on offer.

Returning to your book listing page, it’s vital that you include only relevant and compelling sales information with a positive marketing slant that will increase both your exposure and the number of people who actually buy your book.  That’s money in the bank!  Streamline your page to avoid the clutter of white noise (information that distracts from what’s really important) and reassess regularly.

Go for those reviews.  Go for them.

Amazon rewards activity on your Author Central profile page and on your book page listings, to the more reviews you have–the more people who will be directed to your book via Amazon’s search algorithms, and the more people who will buy and review your book.  Interesting Factoid Alert: This is the definition of a positive feedback loop!  You want your book’s activity to outweigh the activity on all other books of comparable genre, content, and publication date–so in a sense, it is a bit of race to rack up the reviews.  To get these reviews, it’s a good plan to:

  1. Write online reviews for other books.  This gets your name out there, establishing you as an authority, and will occasionally be reciprocated by those authors you review.
  2. Entice people you know to review your book.  And if you don’t yet know a host of eager reviewers, consider hosting giveaways or offering discounts to potential reviewers.
  3. Mark positive reviews of your book as ‘helpful.’  There’s a link attached to each review on your book that allows other viewers to gauge the review’s usefulness (and accuracy).  You can ask your other friends and followers to do this, too.

Books without reviews are like books no one is buying–Amazon’s algorithms tend to leave them out of search engine results and “If you like this, you might also like this” recommendations.  It’s unethical (and fairly easy for others to spot) to give your own book a five-star review, but you shouldn’t shy from asking others to.  The worst they can say is ‘no,’ and there are plenty who will say ‘yes.’

Share your book using Amazon’s built-in features.

Picture this: sending an Amazon-branded email to all of your friends and acquaintances.  Imagine that the email contains a large image of your book cover along with its retail price, star rating, and an enormous inviting button saying “Learn More”!  Well, this option exists, is free, and is almost ridiculously easy to use.  All you have to do is locate your book on Amazon, look at your sales detail page, find the “Share” button (usually on the right-hand column).  Click “Share” and crack open your list of email contacts.  You can enter the email addresses for anyone you know who might like to know about your book, following the on-screen prompts to enter up to four hundred people at a time.

Amazon also makes it easy to share your book listing on social media.  You don’t have to copy the link manually; just click the Twitter, Facebook, and other social media icons on your book listing page–and again, just follow the prompts to log in and post the link to your followers.  Easy peasy!  And the best part is … every ‘hit’ on your book listing page boosts your online presence and optimizes your Amazon page within their complicated system.  Give yourself a leg up and explore all of your options!

amazon warehouse

You are not alone. ♣︎


Elizabeth

ABOUT ELIZABETH JAVOR: With over 18 years of experience in sales and management, Elizabeth Javor works as the Manager of Author Services for Outskirts Press. The Author Services Department is composed of knowledgeable publishing consultants, pre-production specialists, customer service reps and book marketing specialists; together, they all focus on educating authors on the self-publishing process to help them publish the book of their dreams. Whether you are a professional looking to take your career to the next level with platform-driven non-fiction or a novelist seeking fame, fortune, and/or personal fulfillment, Elizabeth Javor can put you on the right path.

 

From the Archives: “Self-Publishing Authors Can Get Their Books on the Shelves of ‘Traditional’ Bookstores”

Welcome back to our Tuesday segment, where we’ll be revisiting some of our most popular posts from the last few years.  What’s stayed the same?  And what’s changed?  We’ll be updating you on the facts, and taking a new (and hopefully refreshing) angle on a few timeless classics of Self Publishing Advisor.

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[ Originally posted: April 27th, 2011 ]

Even with the recent changes in the book publishing industry, a “traditional” bookstore presence should still be a goal for authors who want this. Why? Well, with this presence, authors are able to target an audience that is passionate about books. Think about it — people have to leave behind the comforts of their own home to go into a bookstore. Most likely they are there to purchase a book. If your book is on the shelf, yours may just have a chance at being the book they buy.

How can you work toward getting your book into that bookstore, though? Is it a matter of luck? Can self-publishing authors make the cut? The good news is that even if you’re not necessarily on a “lucky streak”, it’s still possible to successfully target placement in “traditional” bookstores. However, you must have a solid plan in place for doing so. Here are a few action items to put on your list as you get started:

  • Make sure your book is fully returnable. If your book cannot be returned, there is great risk involved for the bookstore. For example, if they stock 10 copies of your book and only 4 sell over the course of a year, they are losing money. If the book is returnable, though, the store can simply send the book back that doesn’t sell. Think of this return-ability as a type of “insurance” for your book.
  • Offer a sufficient trade discount. What’s sufficient? Typically that will be around 50-55% (or higher). Of course this does cut into your profits, but a higher retail margin gives the bookstore more incentive to stock your book on their shelves. No incentive? No cigar.
  • Build proof that your book is desirable. This is probably the most difficult (though not insurmountable) part of it all because authors often have a bias view of their book. However, the best indicator of a desirable book is exponential sales figures. If the amount of books you sale doubles, triples, quadruples, etc. month-after-month, that is something that can work in your favor. If you aren’t a professional marketer, you may want to seek the services of a book marketing consultant. Make sure they are able to help you draft a marketing plan and go forth on planning your publicity.

After you’ve done all of the above, you must put together a proposal to submit to bookstore contacts. You can find others specifically on their websites, but Barnes & Noble can be reached here:

The Small Press Department
Barnes & Noble
122 Fifth Avenue
New York, NY 10011

Other bookstores can be found through Google. Another popular site for locating independent bookstores is Indie Bound.

Do you know of any other bookstores that are small press/self-published friendly?

by Wendy Stetina

When Wendy first posted this article back in 2011, the publishing industry looked rather different––and in many ways, it looked to be stumbling down the path to utter self-annihilation.  Borders, once a behemoth of the bookselling industry, went out of business in 2011, leaving many readers and authors questioning what––if any––place the brick and mortar bookstore held in the future of their industry.  In the heated discussion that followed in the post’s comments section, various Self Publishing Advisor subscribers pointed out the rise of online retailers as the cheapest and most effective sales platform for indie authors.  In response, SPA moderator Elise L. Connors wrote that “[T]his post wasn’t written with the intention of persuading authors to go after bookstores. It was actually written to let authors who are going after that avenue know that they shouldn’t give up on that ‘dream’ because of the current landscape of the industry.”  (The italics are mine.)

It’s true that Amazon has continued its meteoric rise to the top of the bookselling industry since 2011, and it’s also true that Amazon’s expanded offerings to self-publishing authors have captured much of the market and spurred much public dialogue about the world of indie publishing.  It’s true that Barnes & Noble’s online presence, the Apple iBooks Store, and a whole host of social media platforms and numerous self-publishing companies have sprung up in recent years to diversify and stabilize the market.  And while there have never been so many ways to buy and sell a book as there are in the year 2016, it is true too that ebooks and e-readers have done nothing to lessen customers’ appreciation for the pure tactile pleasure of a brick and mortar store.

Even Amazon has come around to seeing a street presence as importance, as evidenced by the launch of the first Amazon Books shop (in Seattle) last year.  Yes, it seems mostly a kind of marketing gimmick, but it’s one that works.  As one skeptical self-publishing expert learned, even the store’s critics often walk away with an Amazon Prime Membership or a physical book or two.  (These are true stories, people!)  There is, apparently, nothing that quite beats the “instant gratification” of beholding actual physical books on an actual physical shelf.  And while the jury’s still out on whether Amazon Books stores will do anything specifically geared to boost sales of self-published works––like installing Espresso Book Machines, for example, or offering curated collections of Print on Demand (POD) editions of Kindle favorites––one can’t help but notice the wide swathes of shelf space dedicated to Kindles in pictures of the interior.

amazon bookstore

And Amazon’s not the only company with a brick-and-mortar presence that can make a difference for indie and self-publishing authors.  In fact, many independent bookstores and even larger chains like Denver’s Tattered Cover go to great lengths to boost sales of local indie authors.  On my last visit to one of Tattered Cover’s several stores, I stepped inside the doors and made my way toward the coffee bar––only to find my progress impeded by a series of low bookshelves that blocked out the cafe’s seating area.  These shelves were the first thing every customer sees when walking in that store, and they were positively packed with self-published books, placed there on consignment.  (If you live in or near Denver and are interested in knowing more, visit their website.)

 

But ultimately, I’m not here today to defend the bookstore as a vital place to sell your books.  I’m here to help those of you who already know you want to get your book into a bookstore somewhere … to do so with the least amount of fuss.

To return to Wendy’s original post, most bookstores now either mandate her first point (“Make sure your book is fully returnable“) or take any guesswork out of the equation by relying on a consignment model (as with Tattered Cover, above).  And Wendy’s second point holds true: when an author is given the option, it’s a wise idea to “Offer a sufficient trade discount.

In many ways, however, Wendy’s third point is the most important.  Aside from keeping your name and work in the public eye, simply by virtue of placing your book in a bookstore, there are several ways you as an author can help “Build proof that your book is desirable.”  Most bookstores have stringent standards for the self-published books they stock: the title in question must dots its is and cross its ts in that it must have an ISBN, a cover that exudes professionalism and sound design sense, and so on.  Striving to meet these standards in order to appear on Barnes & Noble’s or Tattered Cover’s shelves can only do good things for the “desirability” of your book on a larger scale.  I guarantee you that an attractive, professional-looking book will sell better online as well as off the shelf.

Last but not least, a fantastic way to sell readers on the value of your book is by building relationships with them––and one of the best ways to make contact with your readers is to host events … at your local bookstore.  If you pursue hosting such an event, many bookstores will offer additional opportunities to feature your works within your stores, especially since good attendance at your event will likely translate into a solid spike in general sales for them.  (More foot traffic always equates to more sales when it comes to a brick-and-mortar bookstore.)  And the flipside of the coin is also worth examining: if you have already managed to clear a bookstore’s consignment standards, they are more likely to agree to partnering with you on hosting such an event.  Readings, Q&A sessions, and book signings are fertile ground for the indie author!  ♠

KellyABOUT KELLY SCHUKNECHT: Kelly Schuknecht is the Executive Vice President of Outskirts Press. In addition to her contributions to the Outskirts Press blog at blog.outskirtspress.com, Kelly and a group of talented marketing experts offer book marketing services, support, and products to not only published Outskirts Press authors, but to all authors and professionals who are interested in marketing their books and/or careers. Learn more about Kelly on her blog, kellyschuknecht.com.

Self-Publishing News: 1.11.2016

This week in the world of self-publishing:

Corine la Font, in this January 10th article for the Jamaican Gleaner, writes that “it is wise and cost-effective to just obtain the free assigned ISBNs from the platform you are using”–since most platforms provide ISBNs automatically–instead of buying them directly.  Since ISBNs are sold in batches of 10, you may end up with a whole lot more than you need, unless you use a third party service or hybrid publishing company.  ISBNs, for those who aspire to self-publish but have yet to do so, are numeric codes of either 10 or 13 digits that publishing companies, booksellers, readers, and others will use to identify your book as well as the format in which your book is published.  “Ideally,” says la Font, “each format should have its own ISBN, that is print, audio and Kindle/ebook, but what tends to happen is that Amazon, when publishing the ebook of the same title, assigns an ASIN (a topic for another article) to that specific format.”  ISBNs are a key element of the publication process; for more information, visit la Font’s original article here!

Under the “Booklife Report” heading in this week’s Publisher’s Weekly roundup–published on January 10th–-you’ll find a link to an earlier 2016 article by Leylha Ahuile on the explosion of opportunities for self-publishing authors in the Spanish language market.  While the article itself is only available to Publisher’s Weekly subscribers (leaving us with the tantalizing introductory sentence: “Self-publishing is a well-established part of the English-language book trade, but Spanish-language self-publishing is just starting to take off”), it reminds me of this 2013 article by Tina Folsom of the Indie Voice blog, titled “Exploring the Foreign Markets for Self-Publishing.”  Ahuile’s article may claim that opportunities in Spanish language markets have some element of newness to them, but Folsom’s piece and many other articles besides have long been touting the possible benefits of looking beyond the tangible boundaries of geographical divides and the abstract boundaries of language.  Whether you’re looking to self-publish in English and translate your book to Spanish, or publish directly in Spanish, don’t neglect to consider the fact there are more native Spanish speakers and Spanish-language readers in the world than there are native English speakers.  And this doesn’t even touch the percentage of global citizens who speak and read other languages, like Mandarin Chinese!  There has never been a better time to sell your book abroad.

“Penguin Random House, the largest book publisher in the world, is chopping off its self-publishing arm,” writes Amy Wang of the Quartz blog in this January 7th article: “The company said Tuesday (Jan. 5) that it has sold Author Solutions—the self-publishing author-tools platform that it bought in 2012.”  Author Solutions has long been a mainstay of the self-publishing toolbox, but has struggled to emerge from its ownership transfer and other internal problems and to overcome significant obstacles to satisfying end-user demands.  While a sale does not necessarily spell the utter end for Author Solutions, it does seem to indicate a continued slide towards irrelevance as other, better, and easier-to-use options reach a mainstream audience.  Writes Wang, the sale is also an admission of defeat in the battle to stave off market dominance by Amazon, “which already churns out an estimated 85% of self-published titles via its various platforms.”  That’s a tough number to beat.  For more of Wang’s article, follow the link.

“There’s too much grumbling among authors,” says Carol Buchman in this January 7th contribution to The Bookseller.  But Buchman, a self-publishing author of Western fiction based out of Montana’s Flathead Valley, sees a lot of cause for hope: “some people seem to overlook the wonderful benefits of various publishing modes these days,” she says, citing the “freedom to publish and to read in the manner that suits [one] best,” the choice “among e-readers, audio devices, and paper—hardbound or paperback,” and the opportunity for authors to “publish their works in all three formats” as reasons not to despair for the world of words.  “As a storyteller,” she writes, “I’m enthralled by the possibilities in technological development for storytelling.”  She goes on to address “the innovative energy inherent in technology” as an empowering force, and to rally readers and authors alike to a more hopeful, optimistic outlook.  Her full “five-minute manifesto” is available, courtesy of The Bookseller, here!

 


spa-news

As a self-publishing author, you may find it helpful to stay up-to-date on the trends and news related to the self-publishing industry.This will help you make informed decisions before, during and after the self-publishing process, which will lead to a greater self-publishing experience. To help you stay current on self-publishing topics, simply visit our blog every Monday to find out the hottest news. If you have other big news to share, please comment below.

KellyABOUT KELLY SCHUKNECHT: Kelly Schuknecht is the Executive Vice President of Outskirts Press. In addition to her contributions to the Outskirts Press blog at blog.outskirtspress.com, Kelly and a group of talented marketing experts offer book marketing services, support, and products to not only published Outskirts Press authors, but to all authors and professionals who are interested in marketing their books and/or careers. Learn more about Kelly on her blog, kellyschuknecht.com.

The Current State of E-Readers | An Author’s Guide (Part V––iPads )

I started off this series by examining the Kindle, and then the NOOK, and then the Samsung Galaxy Tab.  This week, I’m going to take a (quick) look at the whole suite of Apple products that have by and large eroded any hold the dedicated e-reader held over the general reading public.  I’m talking about the computers you carry around in your pockets and backpacks, the mobile forward operating bases and command centers of your life, the little devices that have had a big impact on how we interpret our lives and arrange our days: the iPhone and the iPad.  Apple manufactures laptops, too, though making room for more traditional computers in this conversation might lengthen it to a mere century or two in length.  You might say that I could “talk for hours” about the changing role of the home or personal computer in everyday life.  I’m just going to allude to the fact that you can use an Apple Air or its predecessors to read e-books, using the same apps you might use on your mobile device.

It’s possible. It’s just that a laptop tends to not be the preferred device for most consumers who own more than one kind of Apple device.  And there are a lot of people who own multiple Apple devices.  In 2012, USA Today reported that roughly half of American households had at least one Apple product.  And the numbers didn’t end there; the article also stated that: “Americans don’t stop with just one device. Homes that own least one Apple, own an average of three. Overall, the average household has 1.6 Apple devices, with almost one-quarter planning to buy at least one more in the next year.”  And that was in 2012!  And when it comes to the iPad specifically, there’s even more reason to be hopeful: according to a report from the Stamford Advocate (drawing upon a longer piece for the Business Insider)  that’s so hot off the press it might smudge if you even look at it, Apple Inc just reported its quarterly earnings and the outlook for iPads remains good, despite a slight decline in total global tablet sales.  The Stamford Advocate’s Jay Yarow records Apple’s CEO Tim Cook as saying: “70% of people planning to buy a tablet plan to buy an iPad, per [a] ChangeWave survey.”  Seventy percent!  And that’s on top of the 200+ million units sold prior to 2014.  So, in summary … there are a lot of iPads out there, and there will be plenty more, as Apple continues to dominate the tablet market.

steve jobs with ipad

But what does this mean for you as an indie, hybrid, or self-publishing author?  Do people really use iPads the way they would use dedicated e-readers like Kindles and NOOKs?  As illustrated by this article for PC Magazine, the matter of what constitutes a dedicated e-reader and how it’s different from a tablet like the iPad has grown steadily more confusing.  Everyone more or less admits that they like the look and feel of the dedicated devices (which eschew backlighting, making for a more comfortable experience) but they are more likely to purchase a tablet like the iPad because of its versatility.  An iPad can simply do more, the general opinion runs, even though many devices like the new Kindle have a whole suite of apps a la tablet, and many tablets (including the iPad) have Kindle apps to sync a person’s reading experience via the Cloud.

In theory, it would be entirely possible to own a Kindle, an iPhone, an iPad, and a Macbook laptop, and move seamlessly from one device to another, picking up on one where you left off on the other––including if you happen to be listening to an audiobook version on your iPhone and use the WhisperSync function.  WhisperSync means you no longer have to worry about trying to find your place, even if you’re switching back and forth between reading and listening to a given book.  (Have I mentioned that I “nerd out” over technological innovations like this?  Ones that actually make life easier?  I do.  Often.)

So, yes, people really do use their iPads as their primary reading devices, in part because they’re so easily integrated into a larger “reading experience” as designed and made possible by Apple’s entire product line.  And because the iPad runs on an app-based (or “application-based”) operating system, you as an author need to know how best to make your books discoverable to the average iPad user.  Consider this list by ZDNet of top ebook apps as downloadable through the App Store:

  1. iBooks (Apple’s own signature e-reading app)
  2. Amazon’s Kindle app
  3. Barnes & Noble’s NOOK Library app
  4. The Kobo Books app
  5. The Google Play Books for iPad app
  6. The Bluefire Reader for iPad app

… and it’s worth noting, before even discussing the pros and cons of each app, that all of these apps are downloadable for free through the App Store, even if the content for them must be subscribed to, purchased, or loaned (in the case of both Bluefire and the Overdrive Media Console app, which are favorites of many public libraries which offer downloadable ebooks in addition to their physical lending collections).  Books with half a century under their belts are (for the most part) available under Public Domain, and many of these classics are available for free in a variety of formats.

Now, don’t get me wrong, but even while all of this is great news for readers, it doesn’t necessarily make for light work for you, the indie author.  Why?  Because, with so many reading app options easily available on the iPad, the chances of readers discovering your work diminishes with every app your book is not available through.  Not to mention, you probably want to make a profit, so a library’s free ebook loaning system doesn’t benefit your bottom line at all––unless readers run out of time and end up purchasing a copy in order to finish (which does, on occasion, happen).  In summary, it’s a good idea to cover all of your bases and not just the “big three” of ebook sales (Amazon, Apple, and B&N).  Google Play has been on the uptick ever since its creation as the primary sales conduit to devices running Android operating systems, but now it’s emerging as a contender for iPad owners as well, after the development of an attractive and intuitive app for iPads.  The Kobo Books app and the Adobe Reader app should also be kept in mind––many readers enjoy the streamlined experience of opening .PDF files with the Adobe Reader app, so you should not rule out offering a .PDF download of your book through some online retailer or your own personal website.  Basically, the more places a reader is likely to see your book, coupled with more ways and editions and formats in which it can be downloaded, the more likely that reader is to spend hard-earned currency on purchasing your book.  Balancing expense (of time, energy, and money) against discoverability is, perhaps, one of the trickiest of self-marketing arts that you must master––but you’re not alone.  We’re here to help, and to be a sounding board for your own strategic plan!

Thank you for reading!  If you have any questions, comments, suggestions, or contributions, please use the comment field below or drop us a line at selfpublishingadvice@gmail.com.  And remember to check back each Wednesday for your weekly dose of marketing musings from one indie, hybrid, and self-published author to another. ♠

KellyABOUT KELLY SCHUKNECHT: Kelly Schuknecht is the Executive Vice President of Outskirts Press. In addition to her contributions to the Outskirts Press blog at blog.outskirtspress.com, Kelly and a group of talented marketing experts offer book marketing services, support, and products to not only published Outskirts Press authors, but to all authors and professionals who are interested in marketing their books and/or careers. Learn more about Kelly on her blog, kellyschuknecht.com.

The Current State of E-Readers | An Author’s Guide (Part II)

Last week, I launched us into a new series about e-readers, and the pros and cons of using each different e-device (don’t worry, this won’t be quite the epic saga that the Beginner’s Guide to Social Media primer turned out to be!).  This week, I’ll be taking a closer look at perhaps one of the most talked-about e-readers of all time, the Kindle.  No doubt you’ve heard a lot about Amazon’s entry into the e-book sphere before, and elsewhere, in part because it was launched by a massive company still on the upswing in popularity, with the built-in infrastructure to ensure a strong debut––and in part because it remains a solid performer, especially in its newer incarnation, the Kindle Fire.

jeff bezos with the kindle
Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos with the new Kindle Fire HD

Just how many people own a Kindle?  A 2014 Forbes article reported that “roughly 43.7 million Kindle devices had been cumulatively sold till the end of 2013,” but, well, Amazon isn’t really talking, except when it’s super proud of itself, so the data Forbes was using may or may not be representative.  Even though in 2014 the Pew Research Center was marking an uptick in e-reader (specifically, Kindle) and everyone seemed, for the most part, highly optimistic about e-readers and therefore e-book distribution, some more recent data seems to indicate a plateauing of that trend … if not a slight reversal.  According to an article by Business Insider contributor James Cook, “for the first time ever the number of tablets shipped has decreased”––and Amazon’s Kindle line has been the hardest hit, with a decrease of some 69.9% in respect to shipments.  That’s a lot.  And the numbers are still so new that few tablet users are speculating yet as to why the Kindle has taken the brunt of the market change.  Is it because users have grown bored, or because Amazon hasn’t reinvented the wheel since the Kindle Fire was released two years (or two lifetimes, in today’s rapid-fire technology-hungry universe)?  But wait––what about the Kindle Paperwhite (the “Kindle 3”)?  Why does nobody seem to be getting on the Paperwhite train?  Is it because people are actively migrating away from Amazon, or from tablet computers, or from e-books?  The numbers seem to be holding mostly steady for e-books downloaded and read, so what’s the deal?

I’ll let you know as soon as I know.

Still, in the meantime, here’s what you need to know about the Kindle (Fire and Paperwhite):

They’re beautiful devices, designed and manufactured specifically to make thumbing through your digital library as tactile and responsive a practice as running a hand across a physical bookshelf––or at least, these e-readers are about as close as you can get without engaging your sense of smell.  (They do, however, make use of your fingertips and your ears as well as your eyes.  There’s some benefit to a multimodal interface, in terms of absorption of information, or so I’ve been told.)

And don’t forget that while sales may have dropped this last year (and significantly), the Kindle and Kindle Fire have out-sold almost every other dedicated e-reading device out there.  There are millions––dozens of millions––of Kindles out there already in use.  So yes, it still remains completely and absolutely worthwhile to sell your book as an e-book edition through the Kindle Store.  The total number of units sold alone should indicate this, but as the aforementioned Pew Research Center report also says, 3 in 10 American adults read an e-book last year, most of them on a tablet or dedicated e-reading device.  That’s a lot of e-books, my friends.  And Jim Tierney over at Loyalty360 reports that Amazon Prime Membership jumped by 53% in 2014––to around 40,000,000 (that’s 40 million) total adults.  And what with the advent of the Kindle Lending Library––a controversial offering, to be sure––Prime subscribers can opt to read certain select e-books for free.  That’s a lot of potential future readers.

Not much has changed when it’s come to the disadvantages of owning a Kindle, except for the fact that Amazon has taken away any grounds for complaint about the graphics, display quality, and user interface.  Their customer support system is pretty nifty, too, and users seem to like it.  No, you still can’t take the Kindle into the bathtub with you, and you probably don’t want to hurl it off the edge of a parking garage unless you actually want to watch it break, but these tablets do qualify as robust, insofar as tablets are allowed to.  Lending books to friends is possible, but still not quite intuitive.  Universities are starting to get on board with letting students use e-book editions for courses, but this still remains an underutilized possibility.  And no, it’s not an actual book you can hold in your hand and sniff for that “old-book” smell.  (But that’s what perfume is for, right?!)

I’m not about to try and sell you on buying a Kindle––or any e-reader, for that matter––but I do think it’s worth oohing and aaahing a little over the modern creature comforts technology has provided us.  An interlinked dictionary that I can access while reading?  Handy.  Highlighting and bookmarking?  Essential.  And much more difficult to “lose” when we’re speaking of a digital item.  And it’s nice, too, to have the option of reading multiple file formats on the same dedicated e-device without having to switch between apps.  PDFs?  No problem.  TXT?  DOC?  The Kindle’s got you covered.  And for now, people aren’t quite tossing them in a blender just to watch sparks fly, so I wouldn’t quite put up the crime scene tape just yet––if Amazon has proven anything, it’s proven just how much it loves to be on top!

Thank you for reading!  If you have any questions, comments, suggestions, or contributions, please use the comment field below or drop us a line at selfpublishingadvice@gmail.com.  And remember to check back each Wednesday for your weekly dose of marketing musings from one indie, hybrid, and self-published author to another. ♠

KellyABOUT KELLY SCHUKNECHT: Kelly Schuknecht is the Executive Vice President of Outskirts Press. In addition to her contributions to the Outskirts Press blog at blog.outskirtspress.com, Kelly and a group of talented marketing experts offer book marketing services, support, and products to not only published Outskirts Press authors, but to all authors and professionals who are interested in marketing their books and/or careers. Learn more about Kelly on her blog, kellyschuknecht.com.