Category Archives: eBook Industry

Self Publishing and the 4th Era

This terrific article is well worth the read and a bit of contemplation. The times have never been better, in my opinion, for writers who want to get read, and paid. There is so much potential in the internet, eBooks and the business in general it is, for me, a very exciting time to be a writer.

I think the Salad Days of writing, the 1920s to 1950s, were great in that you had a market for short stories and there was more chance a novel could get published and make a few bucks. Radio was around and TV was in its infancy but people still read and read for pleasure. Magazines were full of short stories and some genre, like Sci-Fi and Crime, kept a lot of mouths fed over the years. The advent of TV, video and then cable and now the internet changed the publishing scene and cut off a few income streams for writers for a while.

Today there is a lot more competition with something like a million new publications, in English, worldwide every year but the growth in ebook sales proves people still love to read. While sales have flattened in the last year or so, I think there is still a place to make a living from writing for all online. If, as the article suggests, you can also take advantage of a traditional publishing deal if offered and then return to self publishing, all the better for writers the world over.

Keeping Up To Date

A lot of my time is spent keeping up to date with the changes in the marketplace in which I conduct my business, the Internet. One of the major changes I have monitored for some time is the rise of mobile devices for accessing the web. When you keep in mind the fact that Gen Y is now all over 21 and GenZ have all grown up with mobile phones and the web, YouTube and what have you, not keeping up with technology and web use is like shooting yourself in the foot and saying it helps you hop better.

Another consideration is video. Forget swathes of text unless there is a nice image to catch the reader’s attention. Even better if you can communicate your message through video. Moving pictures, talkies, call it what you like; a picture is worth a thousand words and a moving talking one a heck of a lot more. I just had a book trailer video made and it is helping the book get noticed and bought far more than a tweet of 140 characters alone. I tweeted the video link and got a lot more hits than when I tweeted the launch of the book with the cover photo and far more than the test tweet with no cover shot.

Watch the video from Social Visibility Online and give it some serious consideration. It really is timely advice you should pay attention to if you want to do anything online and hope to have any success at. The number of people competing for your potential customer’s dollar grows every minute as the World wide Web is forever expanding and what the ‘guru’s’ are selling as the latest, sure fire way to make a million online stopped working for them a year ago, right about the time they figured they could make money from you selling the ‘secrets’ of what worked (past tense) for them. SVO’s CEO Chris Bennetts is telling you what is working now and what will be the way forward.

The Return Of The Short Story

Screenshot 2014-01-30 11.09.45Short stories and novellas (say 20-40,000 words) are on the way back, which is great news on so many levels. I love writing short stories as you can write it and have it read in a lot less time and effort than it takes for a novel (say 50,000 words and up). Novels have not always been in existence and a lot of the ‘formula’ for novels was set by the commercial realities publishers have to face to make a profit.

There are valid reasons why books are the way they are and more has to do with what sells than the story that needs telling. The ‘airport blockbuster’ of 500 to 800 or so pages is not really ideal for reading on a plane, but a short story or collection of them is. You can dip in and out as you like whereas a novel is a commitment that too often the rigors of a journey don’t allow you to enjoy. The reality is there is a certain investment per book, regardless of length that must be met. An extra two or three hundred pages is the least of the costs to be considered. When buying a book, people are more likely to think they are getting value from one that would stop a bullet compared to what used to be the norm for novels 30 or 40 years ago.

Electronic publishing, eBooks, has changed all of that and much more as well. You can now download a short story or collection of short stories to your eReader or other device and the overhead, while remaining pretty much the same for a traditional publisher, is virtually nothing for indie publishers and self publishing authors. Even with professional editing and other out sourced help, the investment is in the hundreds of dollars rather than the tens or even hundreds of thousands.

Short stories can also be good loss leaders, introducing a reader to an author so that they go on to buy their novels and other writing. Stephen Leather, a favourite author of mine, does this very well, offering short stories for free or just a buck and including links to his latest releases. I recall over a decade ago reading, for free, his superb look at the seamy side of Bangkok life in ‘Private Dancer’, a book his publisher claimed would never sell, Stephen offered it for free as a download (this was way before Kindle et al) and after however many thousands of downloads, his publisher saw the error of his ways and now the book is available in print as well as online, but no longer for free. We exchanged emails about this and of course, Stephen was very genuine and approachable as I have found all the ‘big name’ authors to be. We are, after all, just ordinary people with a brilliant talent… (shameless inclusion of self, there)

The great thing about short stories is that you can offer them for free to promote other work and you are not giving away the ‘farm’ or devaluing your work. You can sell them for 99 cents or compile them into an anthology and add a couple of bucks to the rrp. The really big news is that short stories are selling once again and that has to be a good thing for readers and writers. None of which, of course, takes away from the necessity to write a good story and to present it as error free as possible in a professional manner. After all, if you are charging money then you are a professional and everything you put your name to should reflect that.

 

 

Vanity Press – Still The Vampires of the Writing World?

I have no issue with vanity press publishers; many great authors self-published their work including Mark Twain and Charles Dickens. The term ‘vanity press’ is itself somewhat pejorative, suggesting the writing is not good enough to be accepted by a mainstream (or traditional as some say) publishing house and so the author must pay to have it published themselves. Not true. The reality is that traditional publishing houses are inundated with manuscripts and must choose those they feel are commercially viable, it’s simply economics.

Vanity press is not a social stigma, more so these days that anyone can publish their own work or the work of others and many independent publishers, like me, can do pretty much what thebig boys can do. We just don’t have the marketing department, the many connections and the money behind us but then we don’t have the overhead either. POD or print on demand publishing companies like Lulu.com and CreateSpace.com (and others such as Lightening Source et al) have levelled the print playing field while KDP.com and smashwords.com have done great things for electronic publishing. What was once considered the ‘hippy land’ or New Age of publishing is now as mainstream and respected as any of the Big Six (or Five).

Yet the traps are still out there waiting to catch the unwary and the naive. I came across one the other day and have written about it in more depth on a page all of its own titled ‘Vanity Press’ to make it easy to find. Make no mistake, what they are offering is not illegal as far as I can see and for many it will offer a worthwhile solution to their publishing dilemma. It is simply not worth it in my opinion, but then I do this for a living and have learned things most first time authors don’t yet know (much as I was pretty clueless when I published my first eBook in 2003). Even for those who are time poor or haven’t a clue about how to self publish, this is not the great option they might think it to be and I explain why. In detail and I drill down the numbers to show there is nothing to be gained by the writer and everything by the publisher. Check it out.

Singapore Writer’s Festival- Not Much E About It

I was in Singapore for this year’s Singapore Writer’s Festival and was, to put it bluntly, disappointed that there was virtually nothing for eWrtiers and online writing. I think there was one workshop that required payment on top of the standard festival entry pass fee. In fact most events had to be paid for and some were quite expensive, especially the cook book related sessions. Seems even in SE Asia everyone wants to be a chef, singer, house renovator and celebrity all at the same time.

I came to realise that these so -called ‘writer’s festivals’ are not about the writer, unless the writer is published and their book is on sale. The main sponsor was a book chain, Kinokuniya, so it makes commercial sense their focus will be on books they sell. Why invite an author whose book you don’t sell to come and participate in a panel discussion, even if his or her embassy is footing the bill to bring them there. One of the sponsors was ilovebooks.com yet eBooks were not on the topic list as far as I could discern. Perhaps next year eBooks will get a little more recognition at these mainstream events.

The thing is, most writers are undiscovered and working away in relative obscurity, despite the opportunities the Internet offers them for being published and getting read. Most writers are also avid readers so these festivals make a good return because they feed the needs of the writers and dangle all sorts of carrots and dreams in front of them while selling more of their backlist in a week than they may have all year. There were opportunities to meet editors and publishers and I am sure they were probably over subscribed, but they were neither included in the festival pass nor cheap! Once again, a reminder that this is a business. The writing business, the book business, the entertainment business. never forget it is all about the dollar and the bottom line.

Perhaps it is time to hold an online writer’s festival that is free for all to enjoy and focuses on eWriting and ePublishing? I would run it but I can’t afford the time away from income producing writing projects. If I were to obtain sponsorship from a major online book and eBook distributor it would erode the independence of the festival. Hmmm, I’m beginning to soften my stance on the commercial nature fo these writer’s festivals. It just might be that they have become what they are through necessity. As our man Heinlein himself said, ‘TANSTAAFL!’

DIY Or PTTN?

When it comes to publishing and promoting your book, especially in digital format, the question is do you DIY, do it yourself, or PTTN, pay through the nose! I have recently exchanged emails with an employee of a company that offers to convert your manuscript into epub and mobi for Apple iBooks, Amazon, etc. For $475! I do it for free with Smashwords and when I discussed this with the employee she said basically “if you are happy with the standard of eBook then fine, best of luck to you.” Her tone was dismissive and somewhat flippant. The thing is I am happy with the look of the finished conversion and I doubt it is better when this company does it, at least not nearly half a grand’s worth of better.

They offer other services, including uploading to Amazon for $200, something that took me maybe twenty minutes to do the first time and cost nothing. It isn’t really time saving because you still have to fill out an in-depth form for them to use when creating your Amazon.com account. They offer many other services that cost chucks of change, nothing under a couple hundred smackers. So is it worth it getting someone like them to do what you can do yourself?

The reality is not everyone can do these things, they just aren’t in tune with the Internet and aren’t inclined to learn what needs to be done. Others might feel they are writers, not publishers or IT experts and I appreciate that. While I think it is great that I can do all of these things myself if I wish I understand other people have other ideas, and firms like the one I write of above are serving this market. I learned something when selling prestige vehicles and was amazed as people were told accessories for their new vehicle would cost thousands when I knew I could buy them for hundreds down the street. They never batted an eyelid because they could afford it. They had the money to spend and so thought nothing of spending it. I, on the other hand, didn’t have their income level and so had to be more thrifty. Well, not everyone who writes is struggling so it is a good thing these firms offer their services.

Another lesson I learned over the years was that most small business start-ups are, if anything, under capitalised. I started my first business, a private investigation agency, with that month’s car payment to pay for all my set-up costs. Then I had to make some money in a hurry to play catch-up with the car loan finance company. Writing a book is a business like any other. Sometimes you have to invest in the business, outsource a little and up the polish of the finished product with some professional help. Read more about this on the page Book Business.