Self-Publishing News: 8.13.2018 – The Interviews!

august month

And now for the news!

Some highlights from this month in the world of self-publishing, specifically interviews with or articles written by self-publishing authors and experts!

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Why pair these two together? Once in a great while, the letters to the editor can be just as interesting if not more interesting as the article which inspired them, and that is certainly true here. Which isn’t to say the original article, written by Atlantic contributor Alana Semuels, is somehow not good or not interesting itself; the article tracks book sales on Amazon and delves into the oft-fraught history of the relationship between Amazon and books, and between Amazon and self-publishing. Semuels writes about Mike Omer, an author whose books have sold more than 10,000 copies and been rented 10,000 times through Amazon Kindle Unlimited. Omer’s own thoughts serve as a tether, or an anchor, for this article, and as a reminder that all of these discussions are moot if they’re not rooted in the experiences of those who are most affected: the authors themselves. Semuels is interested in how Kindle Unlimited does and does not support authors, self-published and traditionally published. Interestingly–for Semuels, if not the authors themselves–Semuels dedicates the vast majority of her article to the ways in which Amazon, now a self-publishing giant, has undercut traditional publishing and the ways in which it exploits its authors. As Semuels puts it:

Omer’s experience has been like a dream, he told me. But for people in the publishing industry, it may seem more like a nightmare. He sidestepped the traditional gatekeepers to publish his books online on Amazon, gaining thousands of readers. He ignored big publishing houses in favor of an imprint run by Amazon, attracting thousands more. He has little interest in the traditional publishing industry at all, in fact. He’s a successful author, and his whole world is Amazon.

Authors had their own thoughts, though, and they made them known to the Atlantic, and the Atlantic decided to collect together these letters and release them on their own, from those which are mostly interested in amplifying the negative aspects of Semuels’ story, including one by Douglas Preston, to those who have found a home in self-publishing when traditional publishing failed them, such as Wanda Fries. As Semuels points out in an afterward to the letters, the problem isn’t that self-publishing is a success, but rather that traditional publishing has missed an opportunity and alienated a generation of writers instead. “Rather than just rejecting many of the works that come in,” she writes, “traditional publishing houses could have launched their own self-publishing platform, which would have allowed them to keep an eye on promising authors as Amazon now does.” There’s an opportunity in there, and we hope traditional publishing recognizes it.


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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 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 : E-Readers are OUT, Mobile is IN

As promised in last week’s “News from the Self-Publishing World,” I’m going to take a closer look at the results of FutureBook‘s Digital Census of 2015 and break down just what the implications are for you and me, indie and self-published authors.  FutureBook, an offshoot of the well-known institution, The Bookseller, is now in its fifth year and rapidly becoming a litmus test for the emergence of digital technologies and their assimilation into common usage across the developed world.  The conference, which self-advertises as “bring[ing] together more than 50 speakers from across the media world for a day of reckoning, realisation and revivification,” may well come to guide these emergences as well as reflect upon them at some point in the future–it has become so important.

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This year, according to the FutureBook, the five main takeaways from the conference are as follows:

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 [….]

I’m going to take these points one at a time, break them down, and hopefully unpack the important details.  Here’s what the final FutureBook publication says about mobile tablets and e-readers:

futurebook

This little summary is, of course, useful in its own way for delineating the boundaries of the conversation at hand–a conversation in which self-publishing authors have a great vested interest.  The stakes are high for those of us who depend upon ebook sales for our income, and so knowing where to focus our attentions (and, let’s face it, our money) is handy.  (And as we have suspected for a while, we should be focusing on the Kindle Store as a marketplace although perhaps not on the Kindle as a piece of hardware.  For more on that, take a look at my post on Kindles in the e-reader-related series I wrapped up last week.)  But there’s an aspect of the conversation that this summary neglects: why.

Why are e-readers diminishing in appeal?

Is it something to do with a lack of novelty (they’ve been around for a while now), or because the function of reading ebooks can be better performed with other hardware (like the iPad or iPhone), or because of something else entirely?  Reports from industry experts seem to suggest a little of all of the above.  One TechRadar article cites “multifunctionality” and “age” as driving the market these days, with readers under 25 reading far more ebooks than the national average but doing so with the devices they’re always carrying with them anyway–their phones.  This puts “a demographic bomb” under the e-reader, and as the devices’ primary user base ages out of the buying population, so too will the devices themselves.  And this Christian Science Monitor article argues that the whole system has been “top-heavy” from the beginning, with only a handful of companies getting in on the e-reader market in the first place and therefore rendering it fragile and dependent on sales figures that can swing dramatically from one quarter to another.  We can’t ignore those other voices, too–like this one from the Independent–that the act of turning a page on an ebook simply isn’t rich enough to edge out the superior experience of holding a print book in hand.

All this to say, we can’t afford to forget that any entry into the canon of Great Technologies can be supplanted by changes in market demands, ousted by demographic shifts, and displaced by some new shiny gadget.  Remember that whole “don’t put all your eggs in one basket” expression?  Well, it probably originated in the early 1700s, and we still eat eggs and put them in baskets today.  By which I mean to say: some things remain the same, and some things change.  It seems that what needs to stay the same is our dedication to adaptability in the rapidly changing world of self-publishing.


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

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

The Current State of E-Readers | An Author’s Guide : Summary Edition

Well, if there’s anything I’ve learned about e-readers over the last few weeks as I compiled information for this series, it’s that we as self-publishing authors have cause for both great hope and for concern.  I don’t think I’m an unbalanced optimist when I say that I think the scales tip towards hope rather than despair, either, even though in all things I advocate both caution and meticulous research.

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So, how does someone go about shaping the self-publishing process to suit the current e-reader market and distribution network?  Simply put, there is no easy answer.  As with any technological gadget, niche (or even mainstream) market, and expensive purchase, you have to consider all of the angles––and as an author and producer of digital content, not just as a reader!  Readers have only to consider those aspects of a purchase that lead to user satisfaction; they don’t have to worry about balancing the needs of others when they think about what device to pick up in a store, and which ebook to download from the internet.  Authors, particularly self-published authors, do.  You as an indie or self-publishing author are probably laying out significant packets of money to make sure your book is as beautiful and well-presented and as effectively marketed as it can be, so you want to make sure you’re actually getting your money’s worth.

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The key to a successful relationship with e-readers is, I think, one of establishing healthy boundaries––and knowing when to cut your losses.  And while it’s true that the best of all possible situations as an author is to present your readers with as many options as possible, it’s worth keeping in mind that the Kindle, the NOOK, the Samsung Galaxy Tab, and the iPad were not all created equal––and they have not all sold in equal numbers.  I set out to give you a fair assessment of the current state of e-readers, and by golly, I really hope that’s what I’ve done.  It’s useful to you to know, for example, that the iPad has outperformed all of its other rivals as a physical product, but that the Kindle store sees the highest rates of ebook distribution.  It’s equally useful to know that readers are turning in droves to their smartphones as reading tools––over and above their dedicated e-readers and even over their tablet computers.  The future of the e-reader, ebook, and in some small part, the self-published author rests with digital clearinghouses like the Kindle and iBook store, the Google Play store, and direct downloads.  (And someday, I’ll take a good long look at how digital book piracy plays into this equation, too.)   tablet computer

If anything I’ve said sticks with you, I hope it’s not something I’ve said you should not do; I really hope you remember how positively excited I am about the new opportunities that are beginning to emerge.  Certain markets and products, like the Barnes and Noble NOOK, might be declining in popularity––but that doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t make your book available to those who choose to stick with it to the end.  First and foremost, you have to decide what your priorities are as an author.  Ease of accessibility?  Or maximum profits?  Or most effective use of time and seed money?  (Just remember that the best way to sell your books is to keep writing and publishing new ones!)  Ultimately, the state of e-readers has reached a stability and maturity that inspires me to think that, yes, we might have been feeling our way in the dark a bit, but we’ve stumbled across something truly wonderful.  We live in a global network rich with innovators, and I truly think we can trust to see ever greater diversification and more specialized opportunities in the digital book market.


Next week, I’m going to start with an in-depth examination of The Bookseller’s key findings in their 2015 Digital Census.  Things are changing rapidly––and perhaps not so much for authors and readers as for the ever-evolving relationship between self-publishing and traditional publishing companies.  More on that in weeks to come!


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

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

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

Did you know that Barnes & Noble sells an e-reader?  If you haven’t stopped by one of their brick and mortar stores in the last few years, you might never have known.  This is because the tablet in question never quite got the sales momentum that its primary rivals, the Kindle and the iPad, had automatically built in.  (More on that in a moment.)  And the NOOK, as Barnes & Noble has dubbed their creation, already seems to be on the way out.  I stopped by a Barnes & Noble while driving through central Montana, and … gone are the enormous beautiful displays, the wide sweeps of banners and posters emblazened with larger-than-life-size images of the tablet, its logo, and cheery recommendations on what ebook to read next.  It looks as though we’re back to basics when it comes to our favorite (by default, since it’s our only) big brick and mortar bookstore!

But what about the NOOK?  Should you as an author care about the rise and fall of this non-gargantuan piece of technology?  The short answer is yes.  The reasons why can never quite be summarized as a “short answer,” but I’ll do my best to stick to the important bits.

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

The first NOOK was launched in October 2009, almost exactly six years ago.  By 2011, the NOOK had captured approximately 13.4% of the total global market share for e-reading devices.  But as 

The NOOK store still does brisk business.  This is in part because readers still love a good physical book in hand, and B&N is now the only large remaining bookseller, and therefore it has both a solid built-in captive audience for its internal promotions.  It may also be attributable in part to the parent company’s deft hand at package deals and perqs.  (If you bring your NOOK into a B&N store, you have free access to their entire ebook collection while there!  Who knew?  Not me, until I started researching for this blog post!)  Here are the numbers according to number-crunching website Statista.com:

NOOK sales according to Statista

As you can see, NOOK sales are certainly, shall we say, “plunging.”  But Statista still reports approximately $263.8 million dollars in sales for 2015 to date, and that’s not an insignificant percentage of the total ebook market.  The real concern, for you as an indie or self-published author, is whether any of those sales translate into profits for authors outside of the traditional Big Five publishing houses.  And that data simply isn’t available, though anecdotal evidence seems to indicate that the NOOK store is not the most profitable place to publish your ebook.  Which is not to say that it’s not a worthwhile place … however, it’s far more likely you’ll connect with a greater number of new readers through the Amazon Kindle store or through Apple’s iTunes/iBooks interface.  This is because most search engines and indexing algorithms will promote results in these two digital stores over that of Barnes & Noble, for whatever reason (and there may be several reasons, some shady and some legitimate, and some mere rumors).  And although Kindle sales have fallen and tablet sales seem to have plateaued across the entire global market, Amazon and Apple have both proven innovative and flexible enough to roll with the punches, and their devices have held up better to changing market demands.

Half of your job as a self-published author is to tackle matters of self-promotion and marketing with the business acumen of an entire PR department and the ruthlessness of a CEO.  Is a strategy proving ineffective?  On the chopping block it goes.  Is one particular edition of your book not selling?  Out the window, sayonara.  Is a social media platform or blogging interface sucking up more of your time than seems worthwhile when balanced against outreach to new readers?  It may be time to refocus.  This is why it’s so vital that you know what’s going on with the NOOK before you decide whether or not you want to pay a hybrid publishing company to publish or spend hours of your own time agonizing over the creation of an ebook edition to sell on the NOOK Store.  If your book is already moderately successful, you may find that it helps round out your total bundle of offerings.  But if you’re just starting out and you don’t have much of a budget, you may want to stick with options that are guaranteed failsafes.

Don’t despair for the NOOK.  Just don’t be sucked into thinking that, just because Barnes & Noble has been around a long time (and now enjoys a certain kind of monopoly over the physical bookstore market), readers will pay back your investment in the NOOK store with any kind of enthusiasm.  As the ebook and ereader markets mature, one thing is becoming increasingly clear: more iterations of the same device will not equate to more ebooks sold and read.  In fact, readers are turning back in droves to the physical book … and that’s not such a bad thing, in the long run.

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

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

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

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

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

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

I’ll let you know as soon as I know.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

We’ve crossed the Rubicon, dear readers.  There’s no going back, when it comes to the print vs. digital divide, at least if we’re speaking on the commercial level.  There are quite substantial numbers of readers who are introduced to books via their smartphones and computer screens and then move into the musty world of mahogany bookshelves and neighborhood used-book stores … but these numbers represent not so much a desertion of one form for another, but rather the natural progression of addicts who will simply, and always, want more–more good words strung together, more stories in their hands, more eyes to peer through and lives to live in the way that only literature makes possible.

I’m here to speak about e-books and e-readers this week and in the weeks to come.  We’ve just finished a tour-de-force marathon of social media platforms spanning several months, so it’s time for a bit of a change of pace … but without sacrificing our desire to examine trends and patterns and possibilities with the fine eye of a book connoisseur.

ereaders

The data is in, and readers have spoken.  As this infographic (courtesy of Publishing Technology and Nielson BookScan) shows, e-book sales dropped slightly from an all-time high in early 2014, but they’re not going anywhere fast.  (I should also note that the initial speculations for this year seem to indicate continued stability.)  The digital market has matured, and readers are simply spreading their pocket change around, and being more selective as they do so.  Essentially, it’s not just “still” useful to publish your books in digital form, but it’s actually more useful than ever–readers now know how to find what they like, as the information infrastructure–including indexing search engines like Google and Bing, and social media platforms with a literary bent like Goodreads–has matured alongside the market itself.

ebooks vs print

But how does an author, especially an indie, hybrid, or self-published author, go about figuring out how to navigate both the debate and the process?  Well, first, you have to know a little bit about e-books and e-readers themselves.

And so we dive off into the deep end of a new series.  This time I’m going to walk you through the process by examining each big player in the e-reading market (past and present and future, at least so far as I can see it), from Kindles to Nooks to iPads to chips implanted into your brain.  Okay, okay, I’m kidding about that last one … for now.  In all seriousness, I hope that this series will be of use to you as you take next steps into the oft-hazy world of digital publication!

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.

Self-Publishing Week in Review: 9/09/14

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 Tuesday to find out the hottest news.

Amazon launches self-publishing program for kids books

In its latest move to generate more original content, Amazon launched KDP Kids, a set of tools to allow authors to publish illustrated and chapter books for children. Amazon’s KDP Kids is modeled after its self-publishing program.

Self-publishing changes book world, library collections

The Springfield-Greene County Libraries now own over 300 self-published titles, and the number is increasing rapidly. In the past year, they added almost three times as many self-published titles as the previous year. Many of the self-published books in their collection have been added based on customers’ suggestions after learning about the titles through social media, blogs and authors’ websites.

Indie Author Interview: Judith Kohnen

Judith Kohnen is a novelist, poet, healer and an intuitive counselor. In this interview, she discusses all aspects of the writing process including her writing routine and her self-promotion methods. This is an interesting read for all writers.

If you have other big news to share, please comment below.

ABOUT 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 at http://kellyschuknecht.com.