What is the Maryland Library Ebook Law, and What It Means for Self-Publishing

In February, a federal court issued a preliminary injunction on a first-of-its-kind library eBook law, the Maryland Act, marking a momentary win for the plaintiffs, the Association of American Publishers (AAP).

The injunction follows a hearing where the AAP argued that the Maryland Act would’ve infringed upon publishers’ federal copyright protections, especially the exclusive rights publishers and authors hold under copyright law.

As reported by Publishers Weekly, the Maryland Act had required “that publishers offering eBooks to consumers in the state must also offer to license the works to public libraries on ‘reasonable terms.’”

In other words, if a publisher sold an eBook on Amazon or a similar store, then that publisher would’ve had to offer public libraries the opportunity to lend out electronic copies of their books, or else the publishers would’ve faced penalties, both civil and criminal. Currently, publishers have the discretion to not allow libraries to license their books electronically.

Despite the injunction, Maryland’s attorney general’s office plans to defend the Act in court. The Act was initially passed unanimously by the Maryland General Assembly in 2021 and went into effect on January 1, 2022.

The state argues that the Maryland Act is in the public’s interest, as it aims to support public libraries by addressing “the unfair and discriminatory trade practices of publishers at the expense of public libraries.”

The preliminary injunction signifies that the library eBook law may not stand. When determining if a preliminary injunction should be granted, a judge must evaluate four factors: “a likelihood of success on the merits; irreparable harm; winning the balance of equities; and that the injunction was in the public interest.”

As the court issued the injunction on behalf of the AAP, this suggests that the court likely deems that the law would’ve been harmful to publishers and that the AAP will likely succeed in getting the law struck down. Furthermore, the judge’s formal opinion states that the Maryland Act is probably a violation of federal copyright law.

The ramifications of this case will likely go beyond Maryland. As of late February, eight states have proposed bills similar to the Maryland Act, the latest being Connecticut. New York would’ve been the second state to put its own library eBook law into place if it weren’t for its governor’s veto. At the time, New York Governor Kathy Hochul expressed the AAP’s concern that the law would’ve violated federal copyright law.

So, what does this news mean for self-publishing authors? It depends on whether the law will survive court. As for now, the safest choice is to assume that the status quo will continue. Even if the Maryland Act doesn’t make it to the Supreme Court, a defeat in a lower court may deter other states from proposing and passing similar legislation.

It’s worth it for self-published authors to note that these laws are being proposed because large publishers have been stringent with making their books available electronically to libraries. For instance, Macmillan used to have an embargo on distributing eBooks to public libraries, a decision the publisher has since lifted.

Publishers also often demand high prices for licensing—which libraries find untenable—and they often refuse to negotiate licensing prices while imposing strict restrictions on lending.

Since big publishers license fewer eBooks and electronic copies to public libraries, self-publishers can benefit by seizing this gap. Self-published authors can license their books to public libraries through book distributors, the same services that allow authors to publish their books on multiple storefronts. Even with eBook formats, authors can still earn money when libraries obtain licenses.

On top of making their books available through lending services, self-published authors can also boost their discoverability by including bestselling books that are similar to their own in their book descriptions. This can work out to a small author’s benefit if the bestselling book isn’t available at the library, as the smaller book can still turn up in the library’s search results.

Separate from the legal merits of eBook library laws, large publishers seek to retain control of what eBooks they lend to libraries and how many. In this aspect, self-publishers can fill the gap left by these restrictions.

Authorpreneur: How to Embody Both the Author and the Entrepreneur in Self-Publishing

Authorpreneur: it’s a portmanteau—a combination of words—of “author” and “entrepreneur.”

You may encounter this new term elsewhere on the internet, whether from authors in the blogosphere or profile headlines on LinkedIn. You may even find the word too cheesy, or you may find yourself describing yourself as an authorpreneur.

No matter your feelings, I still advise you to take to heart the concepts that inspired someone out there to coin “authorpreneur.” If you want to make a career from self-publishing books, you must embody both sides: the author and the entrepreneur.

The “-preneur” in “Authorpreneur”

Let’s first look at the definition of entrepreneur, as defined by Investopedia: “an individual who creates a new business, bearing most of the risks and enjoying most of the rewards.”

When a writer enters self-publishing to make money, that’s entrepreneurship. It’s an individual endeavor in that an author (or occasionally a small group of coauthors) is not only responsible for writing the book but also producing and selling it.

This contrasts with traditional publishing, where an author collaborates with a company to release a book. An entrepreneur may sometimes run a publishing house, but the author wouldn’t be the entrepreneur.

Then there’s the business part, which I find especially important. When self-publishing, you’re in charge of either undertaking or delegating all the business decisions of bookselling. You must choose the cover and layout design. You must find printers and distributors. You must handle marketing and publicity. You even must do your taxes as both the employee and the employer.

In all, if you want to make money from self-publishing a book, you must run the publishing process as a business.

And finally, an entrepreneur is defined by one’s risk. In entrepreneurship, one does not simply walk away from the venture but instead invests significant time and money into a mission that they believe in.

Few self-published authors ever make a significant profit off their books. So instead of choosing a more stable and reliable career, they’ve decided to follow their passion and dedicate a substantial portion of their lives to publishing books. In return, the self-published author enjoys the prime share of rewards in the form of larger royalties than one would obtain through a traditional publishing deal, not to mention the accomplishment of handling every step of publication.

This investment—emotionally, in one sense—brings us back to authorship.

Putting the “Author” Back into “Authorpreneur”

Many aspiring authors hesitate to embrace the business part of publishing because they fear that it would take the creativity out of writing.

This fear is understandable. Acknowledging it will help you preserve that creative spark. Some business folks see bookselling as solely a profit generator, and it would be a dismal world if publishing were only about the money. Most books are written by authors who never expected to profit.

Yet, there are many reasons published authors decide to choose writing as a business. It’s because you believe in your writing!

When you decide to publish your book, you’re telling the world that your book is so valuable that it needs to be shared.

There wouldn’t be a need to put a price on your book in an ideal world. In our imperfect world, it’s how you can support yourself, feeding yourself and giving you the means to write even more. Some authors can only publish books because the proceeds make it possible, even if it’s just enough pocket change to cover some of the costs. In that light, it’s understandable you’d make a business out of authorship.

And think about it from the perspective of the reader. While a bookstore customer may have to pay money for your book, that same customer also enjoys that book and has a better day because of it. You’re mutually benefiting from the arrangement. And if a reader can’t buy your book, there are other ways for you to be compensated, such as getting your books into libraries or classrooms. It’s not selfish to want compensation, especially if you follow the professional standards required for a successful book.

I’ll always insist on treating publishing seriously as a business. Still, I will believe that the authorship is why the publishing business exists as a business in the first place.

With that in mind, you may be more convinced by the value of thinking yourself an “authorpreneur”—or you may still find the word an abomination of the English language.

Regardless, I wish you well in your author career.

Over to you: What do you think of the concept of the authorpreneur? How accurately (or inaccurately) does it describe your writing career?

Elizabeth Javor Outskirts Press

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.

How Print Book Sales in 2021 Increased Again—And Why It May Not Last

Head inkjet during printing on pink vinyl banner

No matter your role in the publishing industry, the COVID-19 pandemic has changed how we publish and read.

So, considering how rough the pandemic has been, it’s great to go into 2022 with some good news. According to NPD BookScan, its reporting found that compared to 2020, unit sales of print books increased by 8.9% in 2021. Put differently, sales grew from 757.9 million print books sold in 2020 to 825.7 in 2021. That’s a jump of nearly 68 million copies!

This growth is doubly impressive compared to the increase between 2019 and 2020. In that timespan, sales rose 8.2% from 692.7 million. That puts 2021 at a whopping 132 million copies over 2019 and its prepandemic levels.

So, what drove the increase in 2021? Young adult fiction led the pack, rising more than 30%, with adult fiction not far behind at more than 25.5%. Almost every age category and print format also saw growth, except for juvenile nonfiction and mass-market paperbacks.

Within these categories, the adult graphic novel genre was the bigger winner, with sales more than doubling (109.3%). But even more impressive is the explosive popularity of manga, Japanese comics, which are often compiled in graphic novels. Young readers have driven the sales surge in manga, which is paired with youth interest in anime (Japanese cartoons) that accompany the manga series.

Other standouts include small travel books, which recovered in sales after 2020 hammered the travel industry. Young adult fiction’s surge can also be partially attributed to “BookTok”: a community of book reviewers and enthusiastic readers on the hip new social media platform TikTok. BookTok primarily focuses on backlist titles, leading to unexpected boosts of titles that have left the front of bookstores.

So what should you as a writer focus on? First, when looking at these numbers, temper the urge to jump onto a category just because it’s trending because when you finish a book and get it ready for publication, the trends will be different.

What matters more is that every increase is an opportunity. The more books you put to market, the more chances you have to strike gold when your niche becomes the latest craze, as currently being seen with graphic novels and BookTok recommendations.

With all of this said, this increase will likely not last forever. In a recent webinar, BookScan executive director Kristen McLean predicted that print book unit sales would probably fall in 2022.

McLean cites one big point: 2020 and 2021 were uniquely unusual years for BookScan and the book publishing industry in general. Not only did lockdowns and quarantines push readers to books, but readers became more invested than ever in social justice issues and the books about them.

Other changes include the supply chain problem, as we’ve covered previously. This problem has already plagued publishers with supply shortages and shipping congestion last year, and it will likely linger into 2022. This may translate to price increases for print books—at least for the ones that can even reach bookstores in the first place.

Add in worries about inflation in the United States, along with increasing concern about paper’s impact on the environment, and readers may be more reserved about their book buying, at least relative to 2020 and 2021.

So which channels may readers pursue instead? McLean speculates that online purchases will decrease as brick-and-mortar shops reopen and customers feel safer about browsing in person. Readers may also turn more toward used books and eBooks, and the rise in library eBook borrowing may mean patrons may continue borrowing books virtually.

What should we take away here? First, it’s essential to diversify your book format. That means making your book available in print format and as an eBook and audiobook form, along with any other medium that emerges as technology evolves.

Then consider the different places where you can sell your book, from online retailers to physical bookstores to even stocking libraries with physical and electronic copies of your work. Every platform you add your book onto is another way that potential readers can buy and read your book.

You should also stay on top of promotional opportunities. BookTok was especially fruitful for the authors it highlighted, and the popularity of social media websites rise and fall by the quarter. You might find success through BookTok this year, but keep an eye on where your audience is going and meet them there.

Like how the pandemic led to unpredictable changes in reading habits, no one can say how readers will change their preferences as COVID cases plummet and people return to vacation trips, outdoor activities, and crowded venues.

But be aware of how the industry changes, stay nimble about what comes next in publishing, and be proactive in covering your bases and growing your writing career. Hopefully, 2022 will be another fruitful year for authors

The Business of Self-Publishing

There’s no way going around it: if you want to make a career out of self-publishing, you must treat self-publishing as a business.

Confident beautiful businesswoman sitting at desk and posing, she is smiling at camera, office shelves on background

Yes, self-publishing involves writing a book, and the act of writing is the reason why you’re entering the industry in the first place. That said, self-publishing is still publishing, making it a business with all the trappings that come with it.

If your primary goal is riches, you may want to pick a less risky path—but what’s the fun in that?

The business part of self-publishing means we can apply most of the fundamentals of business creation to your self-publishing career.

I’ll touch on the basics here. This article doesn’t cover everything about a self-publishing business, but it will give you a broad scope of the venture.

First things first, you’ve got to make a business plan. Yes, you can groan at me, but think of it as outlining a book and figuring out how to best use your time to give your book the support it deserves.

Next, set your goals. What do you want to get out of self-publishing? Do you want to sustain it as a part-time endeavor alongside your day job, or do you want to go full-time? How many books do you want to put out, and how often? What will be your genres, and who are your audiences?

Then, choose some organizations. It’s helpful to have specific companies in mind but do pick which aspects of your process you want to delegate to freelancers and when you want to bring in an agency or press. Do you intend to stay self-published, transition fully into traditional publishing, or do both in a hybrid publishing model?

Use that information as part of your market analysis as you research books in your field of choice and determine if your niche aligns with your goals. Then with these considerations in mind, sketch out your mission statement: what is the driving objective of your business?

At this stage, you should also consider your brand—how you’ll present yourself professionally.

Branding includes visual components of your design and marketing, like typeset and color scheme. More importantly, your author’s brand concerns how you communicate with your audience and other professionals. This isn’t necessarily about putting on a persona but more about being intentional regarding which parts of you to put out in the world.

Also, investigate which business structure you want to operate under. This varies by where you are, but most self-publishing authors are considered, by default, to be sole proprietorships. The stakes are shorter with this structure, but your personal and business assets and liabilities are one and the same.

If a sole proprietorship doesn’t sound like your cup of tea, investigate other options: a partnership, a limited liability company (LLC), a corporation, a cooperative, and so on.

Before you execute your plan, there’s one more step: make a budget. Besides business expenses, there are the special considerations for self-publishing a book: book cover design, developmental and copyediting, formatting for physical and eBook, marketing, and software.

It’s tempting to cut corners. You may reason you can design your book cover. But unless you’re already a top-notch cover designer, you’re better off delegating the cover to a specialist. Believe it or not, readers do judge books by their covers.

It’s the same with editing and formatting; of course, you should be doing both, but a second and third pair of eyes makes a huge difference between a book being passable and a book being professional.

Then think about marketing and publicity before you get to the editorial and design stage. I’m not just suggesting this because I work with marketing in my job—it’s because you should begin marketing and PR before you release your book. A built-in audience before launch day will help your book debut with momentum.

I go over the facets of book marketing in another article, but here’s a list to get started: consider your genre and category, book design, author bio, distributors and sellers, book reviews, social media platforms, author website, mailing list, ad campaigns, interviews . . . You get the idea.

There are thousands of ways to market a book, so pick and choose your components. For instance, you may forgo paid advertising until you’re secure in your social media posting. Instead, focus more on fewer things.

In this post, I’ve thrown a lot of things at you, which may be overwhelming. However, don’t let this intimidate you. Take your time researching the publishing business, then focus on the parts more prevalent to your plan. For instance, you may phase in marketing gradually once you’re secure in your branding and business structure.

One more thing: always remember that the most critical part of the self-publishing business is your book. The best business in the world can’t sell a bad book. While a good book can’t sell itself, it gives you the foundation to build your business.

Go forth and build your business!

Over to you: What’s YOUR business plan for self-publishing? What advice do YOU have for self-publishing authors looking to make writing a business? Alternatively, what questions do YOU have about the business side?

Elizabeth Javor Outskirts Press

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.

Reposting Royalene Doyle’s Conversation on: INTRIGUE Plus SUSPENSE Plus MYSTERY

Just yesterday, I heard a word I hadn’t heard or seen used for years. The word is Brinkmanship.

My definition for it (from the creative writing perspective) is “to bring Readers to the BRINK of solving the mystery, then strategically pulling them away from that answer, only to maneuver them onto another path.” When writers hone this skill, they produce wonderful adventures that not only challenge our logical thinking abilities but also satisfy the soul. Much like the tapestry illustration shown here, the various color hues (characters) and textures (plot/angles) intrigue us and bring us joy.

Agatha Christie is one of the best and most-read novelists. She instinctively knew how to weave the threads of Intrigue, Suspense, and Mystery into puzzle patterns creating beautiful whodunits that tantalize, frustrate, and bring us to the brink of giving up before they allow us to discover the truth. Here are some of the techniques she used.

Clues: A spot of blue ink is found under the desk. Ah! A clue! Clues provide information to one or more characters and to the Reader. These include tangible objects such as the blue ink pen found on the suspect’s desk, fingerprints, or a letter clenched in the victim’s hand. And, as in real life, other objects might be collected but have nothing to do with the mystery, which become false clues leading our characters (and Readers) to wrong conclusions—for a short time, that is.

Red Herrings: The technique that uses an event or statement to overtly mislead characters (and Readers). However, this allows everyone to deduce (logically) whether this piece of information is relevant to the story. These red herrings keep Readers from figuring out what’s really going on sooner than outlined.

The Suspects: Because I enjoy the complexities of well-developed characters, this is my favorite part of any novel, especially the Mystery. From the tailor to the butler, the undercover police officer to the priest, and the chef to the hobo—almost every character in the book could have a reason to be suspected, even though just slightly.

Disguises: These can also add elements of intrigue and suspense to both characters and the settings (atmosphere/environment) in which we place them. This is a camouflage of either people or places that gives our Readers pause to consider another possible (logical) course in the storyline and keeps those pages turning.

Successful authors who employ these techniques—no matter the genre—often use opening sentences that incorporate several points. Here is an example of the first sentence in a novel that does just that.

“When the car stopped rolling, Parker kicked out the windshield and crawled through onto the wrinkled hood, Glock first.” Richard Stark, Backflash

Immediately, the Reader is presented with several clues, a character/suspect with enough strength to crawl out of a wrecked car with a gun in his hand. When writing skills are honed to create opening sentences like this, publishing success is right around the corner!

ABOUT ROYALENE DOYLE: Royalene has been writing something since before kindergarten days and continues to love the process. Through her small business—DOYLE WRITING SERVICES—she brings more than 40 years of writing experience to authors who need “just a little assistance” with completing their projects. She developed these blogs for Outskirts Press (OP) a leading self-publisher, and occasionally accepts a ghostwriting project from one of their clients. Her recent book release (with OP) titled FIREPROOF PROVERBS, A Writer’s Study of Words, has received excellent reviews including several professional writer’s endorsements given on the book’s back cover.

Royalene’s writing experience grew through a wide variety of positions from Office Manager and Administrative Assistant to Teacher of Literature and Advanced Writing courses and editor/writer for an International Christian ministry. Her willingness to listen to struggling authors, learn their goals and expectations and discern their writing voice has brought many manuscripts into the published books arena. December 2017 marked the end of Royalene’s tenure at Self Publishing Advisor. and we will be spending the next few weeks celebrating some of her all-time hits, her most well-received articles for our blog, in thanks for years of generous service.