Self-Publishing News: 12.22.2020

And now for the news.

Highlights from this month in the world of self-publishing:

In this commentary piece for the LA Times, Chad Post creates something of a nightmarish interpretation of the future in which Penguin Random House, the largest of all current traditional publishing houses, subsumes not just Simon & Schuster (the third-largest publishing house) but lays the groundwork for the decline of indie and small press publishing. PRH, whose holding company recently purchased S&S, will now be the largest traditional publishing company in history, and its only competition––Amazon––is not exactly a problem-free alternative for readers looking to support their independent publishers, bookstores, and authors as well. Writes Post,

Here’s my darkest vision of this merger: The first post-COVID-19 gathering of the Winter Institute, the only formal convention bringing together publishers and booksellers (now that BookExpo might be permanently retired), will be dominated by PRHS&S. They will have special dinners, busing booksellers to fancy venues every night to explain why it has the most important (meaning sellable) books over shrimp scampi. Meanwhile, the true laborers of the book industry — those who hustle and work the angles, who take the greatest risks and reap the paltriest rewards — will barely get any bookseller facetime at all.

There are many reasons why this could pose an issue to all of us invested in self-publishing, but it is also, as Post puts it, a rallying cry: “These two giants, PRHS&S and Amazon — helped along by COVID-19 — could put any number of presses out of business, further reducing the diversity of voices available to readers like you. And that’s exactly what we should stand against in 2021.” We couldn’t agree more.

Is the Publishing Industry Dead? by Alexis Davis 

In this article from Web Writers Spotlight, Alexis Davis asks a question oft-asked by those outside of the self-publishing industry: Has self-publishing (along with the Internet) killed the radio star––er, publishing industry? Or as she puts it more eloquently, “When ebooks exploded on the scene, experts predicted that the end of print publishing was nigh. […] Many rushed out and bought e-readers. How we consumed books forever changed. But did the advent of electronic publishing deliver a fatal blow to print publishing, and how has self-publishing affected the industry?” The answer, according to Davis, may in fact be surprising––again, to those who aren’t already in the know. Writes Davis, “In the U.S., print remains the most popular book format, with 65% of adults having read a print book in the last 12 months.” Just because digital options exist, she hints, doesn’t mean readers will abandon their favorite reading options. Digital means more options, not fewer preferences. “Just as digital music didn’t kill radio, digital publishing didn’t kill print. Radio adapted by offering live streaming. The publishing industry adapted by embracing ebooks and audiobooks,” writes Davis. “With the rise of self- and indie-publishing, we now have a more robust industry with more options available to writers, and that’s a good thing.” For the rest of Davis’ article, click the link above––it’s well worth the read.


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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 each month to find out the hottest news. If you have other big news to share, please comment below.

ORIGINAL BOOK REVIEW: “Stella the Rejected Star” by Marc McCormack

OFFICIAL DESCRIPTION*:

Stella wasn’t like all the other stars in the skies above Bethlehem. She was a four-pointed star in a five-pointed world, and the other stars teased her because of it. Then one day, the stars heard an important event was about to happen-and God would choose one star to play a crucial role.

Could that star be Stella? Not if the other stars get their way, and they will do anything to stop her!

Stella’s story shows us that often the ones considered different in the world are the ones who shine the brightest through their faith, hope, and love.

Stella the Rejected Star was written by Marc McCormack when he was eleven. Almost forty years later, Stella’s story has turned out to be his son Brady’s story. Brady, who is blind and nonverbal with autism, navigates his way through the world as both a star who has sometimes been rejected, and one of the brightest-shining ones.

Set against the first Nativity, Stella the Rejected Star is more than a Christmas story and is for everyone, especially those young readers with four points in a five-pointed world.

Stella’s story is the perfect one to teach children the importance of empathy and acceptance. If your child loves Christmas and stars, even mischievous ones, they will love Stella the Rejected Star!

Some of the proceeds from the sale of this book will be donated to autism-related charities.

REVIEW:

Once upon a time ….

The first time I read Stella the Rejected Star, I found myself humming “Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer” aloud to myself. There are definitely some parallels between the stories of Rudolph and Stella––bullying by one’s peers, physical difference as a subject to be grappled with, a sort of “inspecting of the troops” or competition to guide an important process, and a message involving the triumph of the innocent over the cruel––and I think this parallel provides a unique and interesting starting point for discussions between parents (or grandparents, or caregivers) and young children.

How are these stories similar? It certainly doesn’t hurt that both Rudolph and Stella literally as well as metaphorically shine brighter than their peers, or that when Stella and Rudolph are both brought to the attention of God and Santa respectively, they take the high road and refrain from punishing their peers, even though they have acquired the power to do so.

(A quick aside: I still feel uncomfortable about having put Santa into the same sentence as God, particularly since I grew up in a household where the secularization of Christmas was a regular discussion. Whatever your or my personal stances might be on this particular depiction of the divine, I think it’s pretty safe to assume we’re all aware that the Nativity story occupies a sacred and beloved space in many households around the world, and I definitely do not want to imply I do not take the faiths of my friends, family, and neighbors seriously. I do think it’s important to specify that this book resonates specifically with mainstream Christianity as experienced in America, to prevent confusion.)

How are these stories different? Well, we’ve established that God is not Santa (and vice versa). And while Rudolph’s mission is one of spreading good cheer, Stella’s is to lead the shepherds and wise men to the newborn Jesus. McCormack also distinguishes his story with an added twist: in Stella the Rejected Star, faithfulness magnifies a star’s light, while the bully stars discover that their unkindness leads to a loss of this same light. Not only does this provide an opportunity to talk about bad behavior and bullying with kids, but it also introduces the concept of faithfulness and the relationship between faithfulness and behavior.

I find it incredible that an 11-year-old wrote this story, but that’s the background: McCormick wrote it as a boy and published it in honor of his son Brady, who has an autism spectrum disorder (ASD). That Brady was himself was a preemie and only surviving twin underscores the importance of this story, both to McCormick, and to those who learn from his picture book. Beyond the value of teaching children to empathize with and be kind to those who stand out for their differences, there is another moral to this story. Hardship, McCormick hints, provides a backdrop against which both heartbreaking and incredibly beautiful stories can play out. All of this in 32 pages, half of them Seth A. Thompson’s colorful and evocative illustrations. I can’t imagine a better way for families of faith to finish out 2020 than with a story of hope, faith, and maintaining joy through hard times.

You can find another detailed review of Stella the Rejected Star on the Readers’ Favorite website, reviewed by Emily-Jane Hills Orford. It is encouraging to me personally that other highly-rated reviewers have begun to pick up on McCormack’s wonderful story.

IN SUMMARY:

Stella the Rejected Star is a sweet and wholesome picture book for those looking to re-invest the holiday season with the magic of love and kindness present in the Nativity story. Marc McCormack’s story and Seth A. Thompson’s illustrations combine to create what will quickly become a modern classic for English-speaking Christian families.

WHERE TO BUY?

You can find Stella the Rejected Star wherever good books are sold, including Bookshop.org, Barnes & Noble and Amazon. You can also find out more about Marc McCormack’s work on the book’s Outskirts Press author page.

WHAT NEXT?

There are several more children’s books in my TBR pile for me to get through before the end of 2020, with my next review scheduled for the afternoon of January 1st. I can’t imagine a better way to start off a new year than with a good book!

I received a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review. 

* Courtesy of Amazon book listing.


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ABOUT KENDRA M.: With nine years in library service, six years of working within the self-publishing world, as well as extensive experience in creative writing, freelance online content creation, and podcast editing, Kendra seeks to amplify the voices of those who need and deserve most to be heard.

In Your Corner: 5 Reasons to Self-Publish in December

December:

It’s a month packed full of moments we treasure, and moments too of almost unbearable stress.  Sometimes–amidst the hustle and bustle of writing up wish-lists, shopping for gifts, wrapping up precious bundles, and decorating cookies as well as cars and trees and houses and everything that stands still long enough to surrender to the holiday spirit–we can find ourselves burned out on forced levity and compulsory cheerfulness.  It’s a season where we’re expected to do a great deal of things, and be a great deal of things … and sometimes, all we really need is to pause, take a deep breath, and have a moment to recapture what it is we’re doing it all for.

It is not in spite of the holiday busy-ness that I recommend publishing in the heart of December, but because of what the holidays are meant to be: a time of celebration, collectively and individually, of who we are as people.  and who are you?  You’re a writer.  So what better way could there possibly be to celebrate who you are and what you have to offer than by self-publishing a book during the holidays?   I don’t think there is one, personally, but I thought I’d offer up a list (don’t we all love lists in December?) of my top five reasons to self-publish this month:

  1. You’re around family, friends, and co-workers.  
    Publishing your book gives you something to talk about during those long family gatherings and endless holiday parties when all other pithy conversations have run themselves dry.  You may not want to lead with your accomplishments (you are the humblest of souls!) but you ought to be (justifiably!) proud of your mammoth accomplishment.  You’ve published a book.  A book, my friends!  That’s a game-changer.  That’s worth celebrating!
  2. Or maybe you’re not around your loved ones.  
    In that case, publishing a book gives you a great reason to contact those same people now that your book is finally out there in the world.  Books, like holidays, can be a bridge to healing the breaches that divide us.  It doesn’t have to be nonfiction or a memoir or even spiritual feel-good fiction to mend fences; all it has to be is an expression of your mind and spirit.  By sharing the publication of your book, you’re reaching out and extending an opportunity to enter into conversation.  Don’t underestimate the value of simple conversation to heal!
  3. You can take advantage of holiday promotions, or create your own.  
    Oh, yes.  You knew this had to be on the list!  Holiday sales and promotions events are invaluable to the self-publishing author, even if your book isn’t specifically holiday-related.  Readers are out there actively looking for new favorites to buy and gift to their loved ones, and e-books are on the rise as popular gift items because of their transferability and the ease with which they can be distributed to loved ones who live far away or don’t have access to a permanent physical address.  (And there are an increasing number of modern tech-savvy nomads for whom this is a problem!)  Get your name and your face out there by offering a discount or a promotion through your personal website or through your Amazon book listing, and spread the word through social media and all other avenues available to you!
  4. For certain genres, there’s less competition.  
    We can all understand why holiday, religious, and feel-good books sell well around Christmas, but here’s a thought to consider: many authors in other genres push back their publication dates for the spring and summer, when readers are looking for their next “beach read.”  But this shows the myopia of an industry that has, for the most part, been structured around the Northern Hemisphere–and readership has gone global!  Consider the fact that in Australia, folks are heading to the beach at the same moment we’re unpacking our snow gear.  It’s never a bad idea to gear at least a few of your sales pitches towards a global audience … and don’t forget that there are plenty of people looking for a nice addition to their library to cozy up around the fire with in the winter, too.  I guess what I’m saying is: don’t neglect the oft-neglected audiences.
  5. It’s something you can gift to yourself that no one else can.  
    Let’s face it: you know what you like, and what you want, and you want to be a self-published author.  It’s not selfish to bring a book into existence if doing so brings you joy–and helps you bring joy to this, yes, often-stressful world.

The holidays can sometimes be a lonely time.  Even if you’re not going to be with your loved ones this holiday season, I’m here and so are the other contributors to this blog.  

You are not alone. ♣︎

Do you have ideas to share? Please don’t hesitate to drop us a line in the comments section, below.
Elizabeth
 

ABOUT ELIZABETH JAVOR: With over 20 years of experience in sales and management, Elizabeth Javor works as the Director of Sales and Marketing for Outskirts Press. The Sales and Marketing departments are composed of knowledgeable publishing consultants, 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.

Self-Publishing News: 12.8.2020

And now for the news.

Highlights from this month in the world of self-publishing:

This article showed up shortly after our last News post, but we held onto it because it’s not the sort of thing that shows up all that often: a well-researched, impeccably presented report on the state of book clubs. The report, which is free for download from BookBrowse.com, is described in detail by BookBrowse publisher Davina Morgan-Witts in a recent Publishers Weekly post. Of particular interest in this particular iteration of the report is the effects of the ongoing pandemic on book clubs, including impacts on where they find their books, whether they purchase or borrow them, whether more book clubs are investing in ebooks or print books, and how the book clubs are adapting to pandemic social distancing guidelines. If you yourself are the author of a self-published book, you might be interested specifically in what this report has to say about the intersection of book clubs and authors under the pandemic; writes Morgan-Witts, “some groups have discovered how easy it is to invite authors to join them on Zoom.” The whole report is absolutely worth exploring, and if you’re an author, maybe this is the impetus you needed to put out a call on social media or through your local library network that you are available for meeting with book clubs by way of Zoom or other videoconferencing options!

This last week, Forbes contributor Stephanie Burns went to bat for self-publishing. Burns, whose primary area of focus is female entrepreneurship, writes that “If you want to gain credibility and exposure online, you can’t afford to pass up the opportunity to self-publish a book, especially when you’ve most likely already created enough content to fill one.” While she mentions KDP several times, it’s the concept of self-publishing that she is specifically behind: “Authors can also list their books for sale on Apple iBooks and Barnes & Noble,” she writes, and “Regardless of the platform, the digital book market is booming. Every day you remain unpublished is a day you’re losing revenue and customers to a less knowledgeable competitor.” Burns cites the case of Jen Ruiz, a lawyer-turned-bestselling-author whose entrepreneurial work has helped connect residents of Puerto Rico with the resources the need to build “online income streams.” Ruiz herself argues that with the pandemic changing the world as we know it, going digital is a way to make use of both the current moment and the entrepreneur’s existing marketing skills. She also actively rejects the idea that the only “real” authors are the ones who publish via the traditional route. Self-publishing can also provide what Burns and Ruiz call “warm leads,” or “the ability to access a free preview of eBooks with hyperlinks.” With this preview properly linked to and from your website, Ruiz argues, it “acts as your personal lead magnet to grow your audience.” Please do read Burns’ entire article on Forbes––it is very much worth your time.


This image has an empty alt attribute; its file name is spa-news.jpg
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 each month to find out the hottest news. If you have other big news to share, please comment below.

ORIGINAL BOOK REVIEW: “Rambling with Milton” by Richard Siciliano

OFFICIAL DESCRIPTION*:

After a long, successful career as the author of an esoteric newspaper column, “Rambling With Milton,” Jock Petitte finds himself unfulfilled and at loose ends. Two failed marriages have not diminished his romantic ideals or his youthful desire to become an actor, so he begins to compose one-man plays based upon historical events and to perform them at senior centers and retirement homes.

Prudence Rogers, beautiful and intelligent, has struggled with clinical depression and chronic anxiety throughout her life. When Jock meets her at the rehabilitation facility where she is recovering from an overdose and he is performing a Christmas play, he is instantly smitten. Rambling with Milton is the deeply touching story of their romance and their attempt to save each other and themselves.

REVIEW:

Rambling with Milton opens with a most unique dedication, which informs readers that the book was inspired by and contains excerpts from Senator Charles Sumner’s “Rape of Kansas” speech on the Senate Floor in 1856. This speech, also known as the “Crime of Kansas” speech, was delivered by Sumner in response to what was called the “Bleeding Kansas” crisis, a series of deadly disputes over the boundaries and slavery-related policies of Kansas. (There’s a lot of history here, and I went way down the rabbit hole on Wikipedia reading up on the context.) Sumner, a fiery abolitionist, specifically denounced one specific (and influential) slave-holder, who happened to be directly related to another senator, Preston Brooks, who went the extra mile in supporting South Carolina’s own official stance on politics––by viciously attacking Sumner on the Senate floor and stopping barely short of killing Sumner. The incident helped inflame the intense emotions and political devisions of the wider American population in the years leading up to the Civil War. The event was considered symbolic in 1856, and Richard Siciliano utilizes excerpts from Sumner’s speech symbolically in Rambling with Milton in 2020.

With such an opening, you can be certain that I was hooked … even before I’d started the first page! If there’s something that I love, it’s a great historic textual reference, and even more specifically, a reference to an historic speech, as well as a reference to abolition, the Founding Fathers, and the hard work of shaping a new way of living. That I happen to be rewatching the drama John Adams on dvd with my father for the third time (a number that does not include my own personal private rewatches) is completely incidental. (Ha.)

I am happy to report that Rambling with Milton more than lives up to its source material. And for those coming from the same place as me––not quite convinced that there’s a romance book out there for you––I would argue that this book is the perfect introduction. It’s a beautifully written, incredibly detailed, and thoroughly compelling novel about triumphing in the midst of a truly difficult moment of life. It follows many characters, but centers on Prudence and Jock, who meet when he is living the life of a starving artist, performing one-man plays at community centers like retirement homes––and rehabilitation facilities. It is at one of these rehabilitation facilities where he stumbles across Prudence, a patient recovering from an overdose. He, an author whose bestseller days are far behind them, connects with her, a former librarian who remembers having seen his book on one of the library’s displays, and read his newspaper column “Rambling with Milton”––way back in the days before they became who they are at the book’s start: two people very far from the golden days of youth.

But, having found each other, they also find that their lives are filled with opportunities they had never before expected, and that there is still the possibility of finding joy, no matter how difficult the present moment. Having found each other, they find a way forward. What follows is itself a bit of a ramble, but a pleasant and delightful one, one that elevates “ramble” to the heights of a slow-but-steady romance of the highest quality. It is a romance that cares about its characters, and in so doing, convinces its readers to love them as well. And that’s the kind of romance I can unabashedly and publicly recommend.

I think I’ve mentioned before in one of my reviews that I am somewhat at sea when it comes to reviewing romance novels, simply because I haven’t read many of them to date. For many years, I steered clear deliberately, thinking that the genre was limited when it came to the literary qualities that I look for in books, but I have since learned that even old dogs can learn to like new genres, and to both honor and celebrate the sheer diversity of books and qualities that appear in and are specific to the romance genre. All of this is an awkward way of explaining that: if a romance novel impresses me, the grumpy hermit with a really high bar when it comes to new things and changing my mind about something, it truly is an exceptional book.

IN SUMMARY:

A well-plotted romance with more than the average novel’s quality of backstory and character development, Rambling with Milton is a thoughtful look at everything that can go wrong in a life––and everything that can go right.

WHERE TO BUY?

You can find Rambling with Milton wherever good books are sold, including Barnes & Noble and Amazon. You can also find out more about Richard Siciliano’s work on the book’s Outskirts Press author page.

WHAT NEXT?

I’m excited to report that I’m making progress on another self-published book, this one a book for children on the theme of the Nativity: Stella the Rejected Star, by Marc McCormack. I’m as charmed by the book’s backstory as I am by its content, and I love both a good Christmas storybook for kids and a kids book celebrating empathy. This is one I’m excited to review next, just before Christmas proper!

I received a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review. 

* Courtesy of Barnes & Noble book listing.


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ABOUT KENDRA M.: With nine years in library service, six years of working within the self-publishing world, as well as extensive experience in creative writing, freelance online content creation, and podcast editing, Kendra seeks to amplify the voices of those who need and deserve most to be heard.