Self-Publishing News: 7.23.2019

July

And now for the news!

Some highlights from this month in the world of self-publishing!

Our first item of news is a fascinating one, coming this week from the GoodEReader’s Michael Kozlowski, who sets out to answer the question of “why are there so few places to buy ebooks?” The answer, he explains, is not quite as complex as you might think: the big distributors—all of which are familiar household names, from Amazon to Apple, Barnes and Noble to Kobo, and Google—already have created a collective monopoly, and they’re able to exert pressure on small startups by virtue of their existing partnerships with the Big 5 publishers (who would be distributing traditionally published ebooks) and major self-publishing companies (who would be distributing many self-published ebooks). Writes Kozlowski, “Starting an ebook store is challenging. Major publishers refuse to do business with anyone that wants to get involved in selling digital content, they have their small list of preferred vendors and that’s it.” It’s a difficult market to break into, and there are few structures in place to make it happen. And since competition is an engine of affordability, the availability of diverse options is something readers would definitely benefit from. Worth keeping in mind.

Adam Rowe of Forbes shows up for self-publishers everywhere yet again in this week’s article on book cover design, a subject we’ve discussed numerous times here on the blog ourselves. But first, what is the “7-second test”? Rowe explains:

You might not have heard of book cover design’s “7 second” test, but if you’ve ever wondered through a bookstore, you’ve undoubtedly tried it yourself. Pick up a book, glance at the front and back covers, and you’ll likely make the decision to either nestle it back on the shelf or seriously consider buying it. That tiny window of time is all an author has to sell their story, and it all comes down to a great book cover design.

With that in mind, authors have to pump up the visual appeal of their book covers in order to have a chance of out-competing fellow authors and seeing their books fly all the way from physical or digital bookstore shelves to the checkout aisle (or virtual checkout, as the case may be). Rowe has some suggestions, all of them good, from reflecting genre expectations to expressing emotion, crafting an attractive thumbnail image, keeping it simple, and ensuring it’s unique. Even in a digital age, when authors aren’t always holding physical books in their hands, Rowe implies, it’s important to consider all of the elements that go into making a beautiful and attractive book cover. A must-read article!

Last but not least, a sweet little article from Laura Hamm of The Bookseller, a privately-owned industry magazine and news engine. Writes Hamm,

I didn’t think I’d ever call myself part of the publishing industry, I’m still not sure I can. I started approaching stories with digital eyes, and have come full circle to print. So I’m now a double self-publisher – I started a self-publishing platform for kids, Fabled, and now I’m creating a book of kid-authored stories, The Future Is Make Believe (live on Kickstarter now). A strange sort of industry beast to be sure, but I think how I’ve grown may be of some interest to the traditional animals out there too.

Hamm’s goal is to render self-publishing accessible and useful to children, a population that by and large has been left untargeted by self-publishers. (There are reasons for that, including the prohibitive costs associated with producing beautiful hardbound books in all the various unusual sizes typical of picture books.) After describing her process and background in creating not just a platform but a book full of stories written by real kids, Hamm closes out with a moving endorsement for all self-publishing authors looking to reach kids:

I think the strange fluidity I’m in as I build my brand mirrors the way children interact with stories. Children are story first and format second – they don’t come with our snobbery about form. They play at Spiderman mashed up with Harry Potter, they read Winnie-the-Pooh, collect the Shopkins and watch Paw Patrol, and it is all fodder for their imagination. It all gets whirled and re-spun in daydreams and their stories. If we give them space to do it that is, if we listen. And I intend to.

We love that.


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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.

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Self-Publishing News: 4.23.2019

the word "april" from the wooden letters

And now for the news!

Some highlights from this month in the world of self-publishing!

In a powerful interview with Verne Harnish—author, entrepreneur, and founder of the Entrepreneurs Organization (EO) as well as founder of global education and coaching firm Scaling Up—Thrive Global‘s Sara Connell gets to the bottom of why the long arc of self-publishing’s ongoing evolution has become so connected, in recent years, to movers and shakers in the world of business and financial investments. A part of it, Harnish hints, comes down to control: With self-publishing, the rapid changes constantly happening in the world of business pose no challenge to the applicability and usefulness of his books on the subject. In the world of traditional publishing, by contrast, books on business and entrepreneurship and finances are often outdated even before they hit the shelves—these are socioeconomic areas where life comes at you fast—and where publishers hesitate to even pick up titles as a result. The byproduct of this lopsided relationship has been a couple of fields where experts lean heavily on blogs, which are easy to confuse with similar blogs by inexpert folk and people with no authority, and a lot of misinformation. With self-publishing, on the other hand, the wisdom of experts like Harnish can be distilled down into distributable, authoritative forms that can then be updated as the fields themselves evolve. Says Harnish: “We update Scaling Up every six months. I have control of it. No one else is controlling my destiny. I get to keep control of my IP completely. And I can use the book as a real strategic tool to both grow its readership and support my business.” That’s a strength if ever we heard one!

Ever wondered why the e-book ownership situation is so complicated? Michael Kozlowski of The Good E-Reader is here with some thoughts on the matter, and the relationship between self-publishing and e-books. The long and the short of it, Kozlowski indicates, is that “Retailers welcome self-published works because they have better [return on investment] and make more money whenever an indie book is sold.” In reality, we never truly purchase e-books … we license them. But why aren’t we transparent about that fact? Writes Kozlowski: “companies could probably educate consumers about this reality. But they don’t. Probably because no one wants to click a button that says ‘license now’ or ‘rent until rights transfer to a new publisher.’ Instead, they bury this information in Terms of Service agreement, which, it is well documented, not very many people read. But is this information unsavory? Need it be obscured?” Now that is indeed an important question to ask.

Recently, one of our blog staff had the opportunity to sit in on a lovely panel hosted by the Multnomah County Library system as well as Ooligan Press, their local university press, at the Association of Writers and Writing Programs (#AWP19) conference in Portland, Oregon. Their Library Writers Program is pushing the edge of the envelope in new and interesting ways when it comes to developing partnerships between indie and self-publishing authors and their local purveyors of story. The long and the short of it is, MCL figured out how to host local authors’ self-published works on their website and for access through standard library reading apps (think the library equivalents to the Kindle app); after these e-books had been evaluated and distributed, the MCL staff were able to gauge popularity and readership data, and approached Ooligan Press to see if they would be interested in turning some of those e-books into print form. And Ooligan said yes! As a teaching press affiliated with Portland State University, an Ooligan representative noted at the conference, they were able to be more nimble and take risks on indie authors for reasons of scale. The result of this partnership has been the pickup of author Katie Grindeland’s The Gifts We Keep, which is now for sale in print form as a result of the partnership. The story, as told both in the article we’ve linked here and at the panel in Portland, is just one more delightful proof of evidence that libraries, indie presses, and self-publishing authors may just be the making of each other, rather than competitors. We can’t wait to see what comes next in MCL’s Library Writers Project!


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

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Self-Publishing News: 5.28.2018 – Publishing Trends Roundup

memorial day

And now for the news!

Some highlights from this month in the world of self-publishing, specifically regarding publishing trends within the publishing industry, and their implications for all authors!

Well, I suppose the title of this article is a touch misleading: indie author Jonathan Kile didn’t actually trade away his love of or involvement in self-publishing for the titular road trip–but he did write about both in this excellent article for Tampa Bay’s Creative Loafing column, as excellent a place as any to find reflections on music, art, and lifestyle. In his column, Kile deliberates upon what exactly it looks and feels like to “take a moment” while self-publishing. The temptation, one assumes and Kile confirms, would be to constantly take work with you; after all, portability is one of the self-publishing author’s greatest freedoms. One of technology’s–and therefore self-publishing’s–greatest strengths may, in the end, make it hard to clear your head. And while it is, theoretically, possible to make edits to your manuscript and even your published book while tent camping in the Sierras, Kile’s column is the reminder we all need that sometimes it’s okay to take a step back, take a deep breath, and leave work at home.

Did you know that there’s an annual self-publishing summit in Durban, South Africa? One of the most amazing aspects of taking part in this blog is learning about the global self-publishing movement, and how the tools we know and love here in North America are empowering and enabling indie authors all around the world to craft their platforms and find their audiences. The Durban Self-publishing Summit 2018 was by all accounts (including this one from Berea Mail) a great success, and if you’re in the area or will be around this time next year, it might just be worth penciling into your calendar for 2019. Here’s to many more successful self-publishing summits in far-flung places we hope to visit!

If you’ve spent much time around book blogs, you’ll know that we are often a bit … snobby. And don’t get me wrong, snobbery and gatekeeping is one of life’s finest pleasures … so long as you’re using it as an avenue to celebrate books and open up doors for authors, not the reverse. And it has long been an assumption, these days entirely unfounded, that self-published books suffer from poor cover design. But as this fabulous article from The Bookseller makes plain, it’s time for this particular brand of snobbery to disappear into the void. Writes Stuart Bache, the initial wave of self-published books may have struggled more with design simply because of tight budgets and limited options. These days, he goes on to say, are different. Writes Bache: “We had only dipped our toe into the self-publishing world for mere seconds before we were swept up in its authors’ enthusiasm and positive attitude towards publishing. Even on a tight budget. some of our indie clients were doing phenomenally well. There are entire communities on Facebook where an author can ask for advice about marketing and ask for recommendations for editors and designers they can use – the support network is one of the best.” Self-publishing companies like Outskirts Press offer design services, as do many independent contractors and graphic designers. These days, it’s much easier to craft a beautiful book, and Bache’s article for The Bookseller goes a long way toward pointing out options if you yourself are looking for a good place to start.

Do you know that old saying, “The King is dead. Long live the King”? Well, while traditional publishing is a long way from dead, the new kid on the block is definitely on the ascendant. This article from Frank Catalano of GeekWire is packed with good news for indie and self-publishing authors, and we all need a bit of good news after the last quarterly reports from Barnes & Noble. Writes Catalano, “Over a thousand independent authors surpassed $100,000 in royalties in 2017 through Kindle Direct Publishing,” and many of the statistics pertinent to indie authors are not included in the general publishing reports, including those for ebooks. If indie authors are discounted, ebook sales continue to drop as they have done ever since publishers won the right to raise ebook prices in 2015. If indie authors are included, writes Catalano, the numbers are much less dire for authors as a whole, although they certainly indicate that the healthiest portion of the ebook industry lies firmly toward the indie and self-published end of things. Long story short: Catalano breaks down the numbers (and uses infographics!) to explain just what is up with ebooks in 2017 and the first half of 2018. Well worth a look!


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.

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Self-Publishing News: 4.30.2018 – April Round-Up

the word "april" from the wooden letters

And now for the news!

Some highlights from this month in the world of self-publishing, wrapping up what’s new for you and yours in April 2018.

Everybody we know opts to hear the bad news first, so here goes: In 2017, ebook sales dropped for perhaps the first time ever. Writes Adam Rowe of Forbes, this may (MAY) have something to do with that nifty little move publishers made back in 2015 to raise ebook prices: “In 2015, the Big Five publishing houses raised ebook prices to around $8 a book, far higher than the $3-a-book price point independent publishers settled on,” writes Rowe. There’s a lot to unpack in this not-complete-bad-news story, and some of it is even downright good news for self-publishing authors and lovers of the indie press. Says Rowe: “Traditional publishers priced themselves out of the market, and their 10% drop in 2017 is just the latest evidence that the value a traditional publisher adds — whether editing, gatekeeping, or marketing — isn’t as highly valued by ebook buyers as a low pricetag.” Word to the wise: provide unique content, keep your book affordable, and readers will come. Amazon may have an eye on monopoly, but other indie presses and publishers aren’t out of the fight.

And now for the unremittingly good news! It’s that time of year again–time for the CIPA EVVY nominations. If you haven’t already heard of these, here’s what you need to know: each year, the Colorado Independent Publishers Association opens its digital doors for nominations of the best independently published books from the previous year. This year, submissions are accepted up until May 19. Then, on July 31, CIPA will announce the winners in each open category at their annual banquet and celebration. Those interested in entering will pay a fee, however, and the fee climbs the closer you get to the final submission deadline. Those authors who have published with Outskirts Press receive plenty of bonus exposure and benefits, and a nomination to the CIPA EVVY Awards is a requirement for eligibility for the Outskirts Press Best Book of the Year, which is its own special award to be announced later in the year. For more information about the Outskirts Press service, visit them online at https://outskirtspress.com/options/6064_outskirts_press_official_evvy_awards_submission_by_invitation_only.html.


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.

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Demystifying the Digital Census : Digital Sales Growing, But Slowing

Last week, I began a series in which I’m applying a microscope to the results of FutureBook‘s Digital Census of 2015 and breaking down to its component parts just what the fallout will be for you and me as indie and self-published authors.  FutureBook, an annual project of industry titan The Bookseller, has been hitting the books for five years now and has become the standard-bearer for those elements of the publishing (and specifically, digital publishing) revolution that range from mainstream (like Amazon) to cutting-edge, innovative, or brand new (like Goop and Medium!).

ebooks

The fifth annual FutureBook conference was held, in part, to evaluate and respond to the Digital Census of 2015, in which record numbers of readers and writers and bloggers and publishers (of traditional or indie ilk alike) and other industry experts reflected upon the ways that has changed or the ways in which they foresee the industry changing, all while indexing their hopes and concerns for where the Book as an object and industry and personal revelation is headed.  The data was condensed down to five talking points which in turn guided and shaped the course of the rest of the conference, and which indicate our ever-evolving relationship to publishing.  These points are:

  1. Mobile overtakes tablets and dedicated e-readers as the device of choice […]
  2. Digital sales are still growing, but they are also slowing […]
  3. Self-love levels recede as many indie authors report lower satisfaction levels […]
  4. Publishing remains very much divided on matters digital […]
  5. … And the majority believe publishers remain unprepared for what is coming [….]

Today I’m going to examine the second of these points, having addressed #1 (the rise of mobile) in last week’s post.  Here’s what the final FutureBook publication says about digital sales, which continue to demonstrate significant growth––although perhaps also showing signs of plateauing :

digital sales

The data meshes nicely with a series I just finished two weeks ago (“The Current State of E-Readers | An Author’s Guide“), in which I lay out the reasons why slowed growth in both ebook and e-reader sales is both a cause for concern (less overhead profit coming in) and for optimism (a diversified, stabilizing market with more competition and more options for authors).  Much of the research I gathered there applies here, so I don’t want to sound like a broken record and repeat myself––but I do want to emphasize the last line in the FutureBook article:

“Publishers have found that digital technology makes producing and delivering audio much more straightforward, but many are concluding that apps are not worth the candle.”

I think this is an important sentence because nowhere else in the article do audiobooks earn a lot of love, and even in the data mentioned above, the statistics for digital audiobooks is combined with that for digital e-books (that is, the text-based variety that doesn’t involve voice actors and snappy narration). And if there’s one segment of the digital publishing industry that’s neglected here and deserves a second look, it’s the digital audiobook!  Readers love them, and so therefore authors are beginning to pay attention.

We all have probably heard about Amazon’s merger with Audible and their ACX offerings for digital audiobooks by now, but what we don’t know (necessarily) is that there’s a whole niche market out there for authors looking to self-published audio books outside of the ACX/Audible/Amazon umbrella.  This Publisher’s Weekly article, for example, takes a look not just at ACX but at smaller companies without big corporate backing, like Open Book Audio and Spoken Word––and other media are starting to take note, including MediaShift and Author Marketing Institute.

As with all aspects of self-publishing, producing an audiobook (either with or without ACX/Audible/Amazon involvement) is a time- and energy-intensive process that deserves both careful and cautious consideration before you decide to commit … or not to commit.  But if there’s anything I’ve learned from my years in the publishing industry, it’s that readers are inherently voracious and will devour good words wherever they find them and in as many formats as they can discover them … and that there’s no such thing as “standing still” when it comes to the evolution of book distribution technology.  We have, as authors, a responsibility to remain at the forefront of the digital evolution––not hanging back and attempting to deny the inevitable progress from one mode of consumption to another, but leading the way and cutting new paths for those who follow.  Only if we innovate can we stay relevant and useful to our readers.  And I fully believe it when I say your book deserves to be heard.*

 

* and yes, I know that’s a terrible pun!

 


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.