From the Archives: “self-publishers raking it in…”

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: January 30th, 2009 ]

That was the subject line of a recent email sent to me by my good friend and author currently writing and teaching writing at the University of Massachusetts.

I had yet to see the New York Times article he was referencing. Despite our professional inclinations, email conversations between Mr. Anderson and I generally involve topics like beer, music, or YouTube videos.

I was interested in what brought Mr. Anderson’s attention away from his highbrow academia to the world of self-publishing. His email read only one line – something like ‘looks like you’re in for a raise…’ followed by the link to Wednesday’s Times article, “Self-Publisher’s Flourish as Writers Pay the Tab.”

Good news for self-publishing authors…

The Article opens stating that booksellers, hobbled by the current economic situation, are struggling to lure readers. And with traditional publishers and brick and mortar retailers exercising cutbacks and layoffs, readers are still finding their way to books. And the fact that they are suggests that one aspect of the industry is, according to the Times, “…actually flourishing.”

Of course the article discusses some of those alleged downsides of self-publishing (there are some less attractive options out there), but concludes with a quote from Louise Barker, publisher of the traditional house, Pocket Books, “Self-Publishing is no longer a dirty word.”

Ms. Barker’s Pocket Books recently contracted Lisa Genova, an author profiled on this blog previously. Despite the suggestions from many industry professionals, including her agent, that self-publishing would destroy her chances at success, Genova’s book, Still Alice, saw considerable independent success prior to being picked up by Pocket Books on a 6 figure contract.

Barker goes on to comment that publishers now trawl for new material by looking at reader’s comments online about self-published books.

Self-publishing is truly changing the way we write, read, and retail books. That is good news for authors.

Have fun. Keep writing.

– by Karl Schroeder

Is self-publishing “truly” changing the way we write, read, and retail books?  Or is something else?  Truth be told, Karl’s post made a lot of sense in the context of 2009 … and not so much in 2016.  After all, seven years and innumerable things have happened–the world is a fundamentally different place, and the technologies we use to engage with that world are equally different.  Two examples illustrate this fact perfectly:

Consider the Rise & Plateau of the Espresso Book Machine

There’s no greater way to mark the passage of time than to recount the stories of empires risen and gone, their vast empires now ruins eaten away by time and the elements.  That’s perhaps a bit dramatic when we’re talking about emerging technologies on a seven-year span, but sometimes it kind of feels like it!  And there’s no better illustration of the emergence of new technologies in the publishing world–the self-publishing world–than the Espresso Book Machine, a fabulous little engine of progress that allows authors to print physical copies of their books on demand while taking no more time than–you guessed it–drinking an espresso.  Their fast, their effective, they’re a great addition to college libraries like the University of Arizona–in short, there aren’t a lot of downsides.

espresso book machine

But the Espresso Book Machine hasn’t revolutionized self-publishing.  Or rather, it hasn’t revolutionized the industry and then stayed a centerpoint of the process.  Like so many new and wonderful things, it serves as a symbol of what’s possible for authors and readers alike–but is too clunky, too expensive to install, and too massive a physical object, to be widely adopted.  In many ways, the evolution and miniaturization of hardware and the constant improvements to open-source software have outpaced any one technology’s relevance.  And so the Espresso Book Machine–while still worth the expense and space issues to some institutions–is not likely to ever see as much interest again as when it premiered.  Unless, of course, its manufacturers determine how to create 3D printers that can print physical books in the comfort of the average person’s home.

Consider, Too, the Rise & Fall of the Dedicated E-Reader

You know this story–we’ve been covering it here at Self-Publishing Advisor from the beginning, when e-readers were game-changers, bringing transportability and easy storage to entire libraries of books, putting the power of the internet in the hands of tech-savvy readers.  Like the Espresso Book Machine, e-readers changed what we thought possible for books and self-publishing.  You didn’t need to publish a physical book at all!  You could collect hundred or even thousands of titles and take them all with you wherever you went!  You could get rid of those bookshelves at last but still be a big reader!  You could make literacy fun and accessible to kids!  You could cure the income disparity anywhere by handing out free tablets!

William Lynch, Chief Executive Officer of Barnes & Noble, holds up the new Nook Tablet at the Union Square Barnes & Noble in New York

The problem, if you want to call it that, is that technologies necessarily age.  Even the really, really good ones–the ones that change the face of self-publishing.  So e-readers filled a gap in peoples’ technology and literary needs for a while, but then they didn’t anymore because smartphones leveled up the playing field once again.  Over the course of five years, e-readers went from “the next hot thing” to “old news, man.”

In short, yes, self-publishing changes things.  But the technologies we associate most closely with self-publishing–these “great leaps forward” in our ability to reach new readers–may actually be the consequence of technology evolving.  Many of the things we thought would fix our deepest problems–the stigma of not being traditionally published, the gap in marketing power between self-published and traditionally published authors–remain largely untouched.  We have to face the fact that, despite our best attempts, self-publishing authors are not, by and large, “raking it in.”  Sometimes, like Lisa Genova or Andy Weir, we find success–and are stolen away into the traditional publishing matrix.  Luckily, we have staunch self-publishing advocates like Hugh Howey at our backs these days, and other authors who may dabble in traditional publishing but whose hearts remain firmly in the indie camp.

We have come a long way, but it wasn’t entirely our own work that got us here–it was the work of countless engineers and technicians, innovating technologies that may or may not serve us in the future.  Self-publishing authors still remain at a disadvantage, and still must seize upon emerging technologies–remaking them or at least adapting them to fit our own needs.

What Will the Next Big Step Forward Be?

Thanks for reading.  If you have any other ideas, I’d love to hear them.  Drop me a line in the comments section below and I’ll respond as quickly as I can.  ♠


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.

From the Archives: “Espresso Book Machine”

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: January 31st, 2012 ]

The Espresso Book Machine® (the “EBM”), which Time Magazine named an “Invention of the Year,” provides a revolutionary direct-to-consumer distribution model for books. Put simply, the EBM is an automated book-making machine. The operator selects a title to print, and within a few minutes a book emerges, with a full-color cover, trimmed to an exact size, and indistinguishable from the publisher’s version. As we say, “Hot off the press!”

Currently, Espresso Book Machines have been set-up in select universities and libraries including:

  • New York Public Library
  • University of Michigan Library
  • World Bank InfoShop, Washington
  • New Orleans Public Library
  • San Francisco Internet Archive
  • Manchester Center Northshire Bookstore
  • University of Alberta
  • McMaster University Bookstore
  • London Newsstand UK
  • Library of Alexandria, Egypt
  • Melbourne, Australia Angus & Robertson Bookstore

New locations are constantly being added. The EBM is a great opportunity for self-published authors. Some self-publishing companies, such as Outskirts Press, offer this marketing option. By purchasing this option, your book will be available to be ordered, printed, and sold at every current and future Espresso Book Machine location. To learn more about this option, contact your self-publishing company.

– by Cheri Breeding

It’s been rather a long time since we’ve touched on the subject of the Espresso Book Machine here at Self Publishing Advisor, despite the fact that the above post from 2012 remains one of our most popular posts of all time.  What is it about this machine––what’s the big deal?  And more importantly, is it delivering upon its promise as a revolution for the self-publishing print-on-demand (POD) business?

espresso book machine
photo by Chuck Zovko of Columbia College Today

There’s a long and a short answer to both of these questions, of course.  The EBM is not just a pretty gadget that happens to churn out new books as quickly as the average human takes to brew an espresso; it’s a gadget that has the potential to close the last leg of the loop and put full creative (and financial) rights into the hands of those who have historically been excluded from the publishing process.  I’m speaking of the author.  While its many bells and whistles are nice features––like the database of rare or out-of-print books you can resurrect in all their original glory––the real appeal of the EBM is that it literally as well as physically puts a high-quality printed book in your hand in around seven minutes.  For the average self-publishing author, the experience of holding and experiencing the weight of all those sleepless nights and odd hours writing is simply unattainable––that is, without a service like the EBM making a limited run financially manageable.  Holding a clean and professional copy of your baby is a reward in and of itself, and the expediency for which the EBM is renowned makes it easy to share the joy of your book.  That’s the magic of the Espresso Book Machine!

espresso book machine
photo by the University of Arizona

As for the EBM’s outlook and longevity, the news seems to be good.  The machines aren’t available “just anywhere” yet, but they’re becoming less of a trial to find.  I recently had the pleasure of witnessing an EBM at work in the University of Arizona’s library, where undergraduates printed out copies of research-related texts, graduates printed out beautiful bound editions of their thesis projects, and professors printed out volumes of their own masterworks-in-progress.

Members of the public, too, have made the UofA’s EBM a popular destination––and it’s not just an Arizonan phenomenon!  According to Canada’s The Windsor Starthe Windsor Public Library’s EBM alone produced “10,699 books” between 2012 and July 2015, when the article was published.  Says librarian Sue Perry, the EBM’s installation “led to the birth of a writer’s group and gave people a way to publish their work even if they only want one book.” Now that’s quite a testimonial.

According to WorldCrunch, the EBM and its competitors are on track to “save” the print publishing industry.  At the Paris Book Fair, the CEO of the EBM’s main shareholder (reinsurance company SCOR) went on the record to say that the Espresso Book Machine and those who use it “will be the invisible hand that will adjust the market,” eliminating what he called “economies of scale” by making it possible to print either 1 copy of a book or 1000 without the gymnastics of traditional publishing arrangements.  WordCrunch goes on to note that, a decade after stealing the limelight of both tech and print-on-demand industries, the Espresso Book Machine is still “experimental but game-changing.”  And that’s about as good of news as one might hope for!

We look forward to seeing what 2016 holds for the Espresso Book Machine.

If you have any other ideas, I’d love to hear them.  Drop me a line in the comments section below and I’ll respond as quickly as I can.  ♠

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.

Top 10 Posts from 2013

Is self-publishing a book on your 2014 to-do list? If so, I’ve gathered the top self-publishing advice and news from 2013 to help you get started on your 2014 writing projects. These articles proved to be helpful to writers publishing in the past year, and I’m sure they will be helpful to you too. Here are the top 10 self-publishing posts from 2013.

1. Top 5 Customer Service Characteristics of High Quality Self-Publishing Companies

Choosing a self-publishing company is an important decision. This article discusses five characteristics to look for to ensure that you choose a high quality self-publishing company.

2. Quick Start Guide to Marketing Your Kindle eBooks Like a Pro!

This must read article discusses the differences between marketing an ebook and marketing a print book as well the mistakes that some authors make when marketing their Kindle ebooks.

3. How Much Do Self-Published Authors Make Per Year?

How much income self-publishing authors earn is always a common question among those considering self-publishing. This article provides an honest answer about the income you can expect as a self-published author.

4. Espresso Book Machines Offer Self-Publishing Authors a Jolt in Sales

It is amazing how much the publishing industry as changed over the past few years. Espresso book machines are book vending machines that produce a paperback copy of your selection on the spot. The way they work and how they are changing the way people get books is fascinating.

5. Should You Pay for a Book Review

Book reviews are a great way for self-publishing authors to market their book and increase their credibility. This article discusses why paying for book reviews is actually a great idea.

6. Self Publishing Authors Beware: Cheaper Isn’t Always Better

Many self-publishing authors are looking for ways to publish their books while sticking to a budget. While there are ways to cut costs and save money, this article explains why cheaper isn’t always better.

7. Top 5 Considerations for Effectively Pricing Your Self-Publishing Book

Book pricing is always a hot topic among self-publishing authors. This article helps you determine a pricing strategy that is appropriate for your book.

8. Color Printing vs. Black and White Printing…What is the Difference?

This article discusses the difference between color printing and black and white printing. It also explains how these options compare to those offered by traditional publishers and what options are available to authors of long manuscripts.

9. Compare CreateSpace and Outskirts Press Self Publishing Packages

Choosing a self-publishing company can seem like a daunting task because it is difficult to make an apple-to-apple comparison. Each company offers different services and packages. This article provides an honest comparison between two popular publishing packages available through CreateSpace and Outskirts Press.

10. Copyright and Copywrite in Self-Publishing

Copyright is a confusing topic for many authors. This article explains basic copyright laws and what you need to do to protect your work.

I’d love to know, what is your favorite self-publishing post from 2013?

ABOUT KELLY SCHUKNECHT: Kelly Schuknecht is the 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 at http://kellyschuknecht.com.

Espresso Book Machines Offer Self-Publishing Authors a Jolt in Sales

Oh, the publishing industry has come such a long way since the days of minimum advance orders, massive preprinting and prohibitive upfront production costs. Technology has not only given digital readers the gift of instant downloads, but now has given hard copy traditionalists the ability to choose a book digitally and have it in hand in the time it takes to press a few buttons on a vending machine.

In fact, the Espresso Book Machine® (EBM), as the name implies, is essentially a vending machine for literature. Just as an espresso maker both makes and vends a piping-hot beverage on demand, the EBM produces a paperback copy of your selection on the spot. The buyer selects a title and the EBM instantly prints the selection, complete with a full-color cover, that is indistinguishable from a preprinted paperback plucked from a bookshelf. The machine even cuts the book to the proper size for that title!

All that in three or four minutes. You can’t even make a latte that fast.

It’s understandable why so much excitement is brewing over this technology. Booksellers and libraries, wise to many readers’ undying love for both tangible reads and instant gratification, are keen to offer as many new releases as possible, even when shelf space is hard to come by. Naturally, authors are drinking it up, as well; any gadget that serves up their books without requiring huge advance printing and shipment costs is a sweet deal. Authors only pay a small preprint cost and receive the full retail price, minus a consignment fee.

Espresso Book Machines are already working overtime in libraries and universities all over the world, including but not limited to:

  • New York Public Library
  • University of Michigan Library
  • New Orleans Public Library
  • San Francisco Internet Archive
  • University of Michigan Library
  • Manchester Center Northshire Bookstore
  • University of Alberta
  • McMaster University Bookstore
  • London Newsstand UK
  • Library of Alexandria, Egypt
  • Melbourne, Australia Angus & Robertson Bookstore

More vending locations are being added all the time. Self-publishing giant Outskirts Press has added the Espresso Book Machine as an affordable distribution option for its authors, and it’s a smart addition to any book marketing plan. The small set-up fee makes the book available at all of the EBM locations and automatically uploads your title to new machines as they’re added to the EBM network, at no extra charge.

Combine an EBM edition with Amazon book listing, and iPad, NOOK and Kindle editions to maximize access to your book and make it easier for readers to make the decision to buy. Of course, you can still keep your car’s trunk stocked with your latest book just in case, but the Espresso Book Machine can help you lessen the load when preprinting isn’t possible.

Elise Connors ABOUT ELISE L. CONNORS:
Elise works as the Manager of Author Support of Outskirts Press.  She also contributes to the Outskirts Press blog at blog.outskirtspress.com. Elise and a group of talented book marketing experts assist not only published Outskirts Press authors, but also all authors and professionals who are interested in getting the best possible exposure for their book.

Espresso Book Machine

The Espresso Book Machine® (the “EBM”), which Time Magazine named an “Invention of the Year,” provides a revolutionary direct-to-consumer distribution model for books. Put simply, the EBM is an automated book-making machine. The operator selects a title to print, and within a few minutes a book emerges, with a full-color cover, trimmed to an exact size, and indistinguishable from the publisher’s version. As we say, “Hot off the press!”

Currently, Espresso Book Machines have been set-up in select universities and libraries including:

  • New York Public Library
  • University of Michigan Library
  • World Bank InfoShop, Washington
  • New Orleans Public Library
  • San Francisco Internet Archive
  • Manchester Center Northshire Bookstore
  • University of Alberta
  • McMaster University Bookstore
  • London Newsstand UK
  • Library of Alexandria, Egypt
  • Melbourne, Australia Angus & Robertson Bookstore

New locations are constantly being added. The EBM is a great opportunity for self-published authors. Some self-publishing companies, such as Outskirts Press, offer this marketing option. By purchasing this option, your book will be available to be ordered, printed, and sold at every current and future Espresso Book Machine location. To learn more about this option, contact your self-publishing company.

Cheri Breeding ABOUT CHERI BREEDING: Since 2005 Cheri Breeding has been working as the Director of Production for Outskirts Press. In that time, she has been an instrumental component of every aspect of the Production Department, performing the roles of an Author Representative, Book Designer, Customer Service Representative, Title Production Supervisor, Production Manager and, Director of Production. She brings all that experience and knowledge, along with an unparalleled customer-service focus, to help self-publishing authors reach high-quality book publication more efficiently, professionally, and affordably.

Kindle versus iPad. Or, not really at all…

At the recent Self-publishing Book Expo in New York City, Amazon’s Jason Kuykendall admitted to owning both a Kindle and an iPad.

(Don’t tell Jeff Bezos!) He already knows, and should because this is a good thing for Amazon, and for self-publishing authors. As Jason pointed out, the Kindle is more than a device among the various available – it is a distribution channel. As a reader, you may have a preference, or as can be the case with Apple an open prejudice. We’ll let Bezos and Jobs worry about those manufacturing and marketing details.

As an author, these devices are much more than readers, they are distribution channels from the Espresso Book Machine all the way up to Ingram. Instead of being readers, the Kindle and iPad are for authors important distribution channels.

Be sure to check with your publisher about options distributing through as many as possible.



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