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To say that self-publishing has unleashed something profound around the world is an understatement. Whether it’s through the launch of ebooks and print-on-demand books or just a blogging or social media platform, digital publishing has made it possible for individuals to put their ideas in front of a broader audience. It cannot be a coincidence that the global spread of ideas and the actions of individuals such as the recent Arab Spring have taken place in a climate of mass content sharing.

To that end, one of the individuals who has probably done more towards furthering the ability of individuals to reach a larger plane with their ideas is Mark Coker, CEO and founder of Smashwords. His vision for giving authors a place from which to release their works is only six years old, but in that time his work has made hundreds of thousands of titles available for readers around the globe.

Today, Coker posted on the Smashwords blog not only his deeply held beliefs about writing and publishing, but also this document:

THE INDIE AUTHOR MANIFESTO

We indie authors believe all writers are created equal, that all writers are endowed with natural creative potential, and that writers have an unalienable right to exercise, explore, and realize their potential through the freedom of publication.

I hold these truths to be self-evident:

I am an indie author.
I have experienced the pleasure and satisfaction that comes from self-publishing.
I have a right to publish.
My creative control is important to me. I decide when, where and how my writing graduates to become a published book.
Indie does not mean “alone.” I choose my partners.
I shall not bow beholden or subservient to any publisher. In my business relationships, I seek partnership, fairness, equity and mutually aligned interests.
We indie author comprise diverse writers unified by a common purpose to advance, empower and celebrate writers everywhere.
I am a professional. I take pride in my work, and I strive to improve my craft to better serve my readers, myself, my fellow indie authors and the culture of books
My writing is valuable and important. This value and importance cannot be measured by commercial sales alone.
I celebrate the success of my fellow indie authors, for their success is mine, and mine theirs. Together we are pioneering a better future for books marked by greater quality, creativity, diversity, choice, availability, affordability and accessibility.

According to Coker, who so humbly describes self-publishing as a “global movement,” in his post said, “Critics say self publishing is causing a tsunami of drek that will destroy book culture and render the best books undiscoverable.  Not true.  Yes, self publishing will enable more horrible books to be published than ever before, but it will also enable more better books to be published, discoverable and enjoyable than ever before.  There’s a yin and yang to this.”

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Smashwords signed a distribution agreement with eBook subscription service Scribd last December. Indie authors who elect to include their titles in the Scribd catalog are now getting extra benefits, a free one year subscription to Scribd.

The one year free subscription to Scribd is only available to authors who have included their books in that distribution platform. Your complimentary subscription will activate when you claim your new Scribd author profile. The subscription will be valid for 1 year. If you’d like to renew your subscription after that, Scribd will remind you to enter your payment information. No payment information is necessary now to redeem your complimentary subscription.

Basically, in order to get your free subscription you have to create an author profile on Scribd. Smashwords is sending out emails this week to get users to sign up for the service and opt into the free subscription. Time is of the essence because the offer expires April 30th 2014.

Smashwords has ironed out a fairly solid arrangement for authors who want to include their eBooks into Scribd. The author or publisher earns credit for a full read when the reader reaches a certain trigger point, measured by the percentage of the book that is read. The first 10% of the book is a free sample, similar to a retailer. Excluding the sample, once the reader reads an additional 20% of the book, a full sale is triggered and the Smashwords author earns 60% of the list price, up to a maximum of about $12.50 per read. In practice, what this means for most fiction writers is that after the reader reads more than the first 30% of your book, it triggers a full sale. For some non-fiction writers, where your book’s content is more likely to be read non-sequentially, it means if the reader starts their reading deeper in the book at Chapter 10, a sale could be triggered after reading only 20% of the book (As an aside, this underscores the importance of authors building fully functional navigation into their ebooks so that all their book’s content is easily discoverable.

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The internet is hardly a safe place for kids to safely read content that is truly free. This has prompted numerous companies to release tablets specifically geared towards the kiddos or Amazon charging $10 a month for Kindle Freetime Unlimited. Storybird bucks the trend of charging for content or displaying nefarious advertising. Instead, they give everything away for free and even let the little tyke write their own book.

Storybird lets anyone make free visual stories in seconds. The company curates artwork from illustrators and animators around the world and inspires writers of any age to turn those images into fresh stories. There are over five million stories on the website and lots of interactive features to talk to the writer or just Heart the story.

Discovery of content is easily laid out so you can choose your favorite genre or by age appropriate ratings. The actual content is mainly created by kids, but some adults cut their teeth here too. There are plenty of genres to appeal to the sensibilities to everyone. You can read a ten page story or a single page image with poetry on it. There are rhyming books, love stories, adventures and everything in-between.

There are systems in place for readers to talk to the authors or comment on a specific image or story they liked. This is a great way to develop a following to that will follow you from story to story. There are extensive writer tools available that are quite simplistic in nature and basically designed for kids. You can choose from cover art and images that show up in the books. The images are often full screen with the text on the far left hand side. Once you read ten stories, there is a consistency factor in the way all of the books are developed.

80% of Storybirds core audience is between the ages of seven and fifteen and in order for the company to grow, they have to look beyond picture books. In the next few months Storybird will be developing a long-form system in the hopes of competing against Wattpad and finding that next Harry Potter novel.

This is a really great service and one of the best sites aimed at kids on the internet. I really implore educators, parents and most of all the lil tykes to check it out.

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Despite the reports and rumors that swirl around bookseller Barnes and Noble, the company has managed to keep its head above water in the retail bookselling space, both physically and online. Reports that the chain will close three hundred brick-and-mortar stores over the next several years was one of the first real nails in its coffin as far as critics were concerned, and coupled with lagging sales of devices and ebooks, many were certain that it was an indication of the company’s doom. But with product launches over the last few years that continue to demonstrate B&N’s commitment to its Nook line of devices, there is evidence that the company still stands behind its plan to innovate with the device and to keep moving forward.

One area that B&N continues to hold its own is in the college textbook market. While the company’s off campus stores have suffered, demonstrated by the recent closing of its flagship New York store that had become a college bookstore over the recent years, its growth on college campuses is surpassed only by Follett.

Now, B&N is combining its retail academic strength with its dedication to digital by announcing the pending development of Yuzu for college textbooks. According to an announcement on the Barnes and Noble College site, “Yuzu is a digital education platform by Barnes & Noble that makes the everyday learning experience remarkably gratifying. It’s an online ecosystem that enables the collaborative, free flow of information between learners and educators, making it easier than ever to teach, learn, discover and digest. Yuzu combines the passion of the mentor and the curiosity of the student to create something never before seen in our industry.”

By building a single-app interface that works through tablets or web-browsers (meaning students no longer have to choose what type of device they bring to college), B&N hopes to build a platform where students, educators, and virtually any stakeholder in the academic process can seamlessly interact with the text or material, regardless of the content’s publisher. It will integrate access to the online bookstore in order to keep all of the user’s content in one location for accessing, studying, and collaborating.

While this concept isn’t exactly new, what may make the difference is the iconic logo behind the platform. Many other startups have tried to build this wholly integrated learning world, but they didn’t come with the backing of a relatively successful and known academic brand. While this launch could finally be what it takes to bring this type of digital learning nirvana to a broader audience of users, it could also be the platform that puts to rest some of the rumors and speculations about B&N’s ability to stay afloat.

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For many self-published authors, the various ebook distribution platforms that have made it easier than ever to put content in front of readers are the only avenue to publication. But with the variety of companies who have begun to offer legitimate, cost effective ways of offering readers a print edition as well, there’s no reason not to release a book simultaneously in both ebook and print.

Blurb, who began as a limited print company who specialized in niche books like professional portfolios before expanding into genres like indie cookbooks and art books, announced today that it has a host of new features for authors, including free ISBN numbers, direct to Amazon distribution for print, and a new tool called BookWright that lets authors upload without having to have the expertise to submit files through Adobe’s InDesign.

“Blurb BookWright and Blurb to Amazon distribution have both evolved from years of learning, absorbing customer feedback, and the internal desire to bring a fully featured book creation platform to all potential authors,” says Eileen Gittins, Blurb founder and CEO. “I’ve wanted to make an announcement this simple and clear for years: Make your book once and publish it anywhere, for print or for ebook. Today is that day, and Blurb has become the indie author’s best friend. We’re fulfilling our promise to bring publishing to everyone.”

While there will eventually be a reasonable setup fee ($29US) per title, Blurb is currently running a free promotion that allows anyone to give the platform a try. BookWright is also free to setup and experiment with in order to test out features like professionally designed pre-built starter layouts for a variety of book types, an easy-to-use WYSIWYG design process from start to finish, the ability to import book files directly from existing Blurb tools, and more.

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The World Book Night organization is best known for its mission to share one million books each year on April 23, attempting to foster a love of reading in people around the world. This year, a special bonus title is available as well, starting stateside on April 22nd. This free ebook, which can be found HERE, is a compilation of essays from a wide variety of book givers, outlining their experiences in being book givers in 2013. The ebook was powered by Livrada and made available in conjunction with this year’s event.

“As a company, we are thrilled to bring our technology and resources to support World Book Night,” said Livrada’s CEO and co-founder Leonard Chen. “We strive to meld our passion for technology and books, and hope this ebook brings joy to many people this WBN 2014.”

WBN’s executive director Carl Lennertz added, “We’ve discussed a digital component for WBN since year one, but it didn’t come together until the great people at Livrada stepped forward, and until two authors who were givers agreed to contribute pieces. Then we sought and received the fun bookseller and library contributions to the ebook. This is a supplement to our primary mission of printed books, not a change in direction. It’s short and fun original material, and we wanted the givers to have this to offer anyone they meet who might not read often on their smart phones or tablets. Our main mission is still to find a half million people without means or access to printed books, but this digital extra is a nice plus. We also feel it’s a great thank you to the 25,000 volunteer givers to enjoy as well. And now, we have the giver contest to be in next year’s ebook!”

The contest, which lets this year’s givers submit essays on their giving experience this year, will run through May 31st for feature in next year’s ebook. The winner of the essay contest will receive two roundtrip airfares in the US. The library winner will receive two air tickets to the ALA conference, while the bookseller winner will receive two airline tickets to BookExpo 2015. Full contest details can be found HERE.

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Verdict: 3 Stars

I expected a lot from Haunted Empire, and I did get a lot of information. It just wasn’t the stuff I thought I would read about. Where was the controversy? Where was the speculation about Apple’s downfall? Basically, where was the information that CEO Tim Cook took issue with?

There was a lot of background information, and I will say that the beginning of the book contained an even closer look at Steve Jobs. It’s funny to read a book that contains information on how Jobs fought with the guy writing his book! There was a lot of really in-depth and thrilling–both heartwarming and negative–information on who Jobs was, told only through the most hidden conversations that made me ask several times, “How did the author find this out?” That’s not to question Kane’s veracity, but to really highlight that she included conversations no one else would have known about.

But while the content within the book gave detailed information about Apple’s woes since the untimely passing of Jobs–I’m not above admitting that I cried several times during Kane’s depiction of the CEO’s last few months and final death–there was nothing of note about where the company is headed with Cook at the helm, at least not in terms of the uproar that followed the book’s publication. Yes, there is certainly mention that Apple hasn’t released anything profound since losing its original dreamer, but it’s also understandable. Kane even paints a picture of a company that is still reinventing itself as a new company, having gone through downturns in the past with various underwhelming CEOs.

At the same time, Kane herself gives so much insight into not only the legal woes that have plagued Apple lately (and kept the company fairly busy with its leadership and its finances tied up in courtroom drama), but also unintentionally details the cyclical nature of Apple’s innovations. It’s hardly newsworthy that the company that brought us the iPhone, iPod, iPad, and resulting app and music stores in the space of such a short time frame would rest on its laurels for a moment before attempting to launch anything quite as world changing again.

Haunted Empire was insightful and interesting, but hardly earned its reputation as the tell-all, “bearer of bad tidings” book that the hype told us to expect.

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Now that the world of self-publishing has become more commonplace and tools are in place to help authors from a variety of skill levels complete their works for publication, one of the chief hurdles that authors still seek help for is marketing. Book promotion continues to be a huge obstacle to success for authors, regardless of publishing mode. A panel at the recent PubSmartCon, chaired by Shari Stauch, CEO of Where Writers Win, discussed the merits of professional book reviews and book clubs as avenues for book discovery.

NetGalley’s Tarah Theoret spoke about the service that links books with reviewers. “We have over 200,000 publishers as clients, and we work with traditional publishers, small publishers, and self-published authors. For the most part they are pre-pub, but there’s no set rule for when a book can go up on NetGalley. They are for review, and not purchase and consumption directly on the site.”

In the case of NetGalley, the fee to the rights holder is not paid in any way to the reviewer, it is instead paid to keep the site in operation. But other representatives from companies like Chanticleer Book Reviews & Media and Kirkus Reviews spoke about the importance of quality reviews from vetted sources, even if those reviews come at a cost. While paid book reviews continue to be a hotly contested issue among authors and readers alike, panelists Kiffer Brown (Chanticleer) and Eric Liebetrau (Kirkus) explained the difference between an honest review from a long-standing publishing industry entity, and the option to pay an individual in exchange for a “good” review.

One of the topics covered at the event were the inherent ineffectiveness of blog tours, especially in the climate where anyone with a blog can charge money for arranging blog tours among their friends, regardless of how appropriate various blogs are for a particular title, the high or low Alexa ranking for those blogs, and more. Stauch spoke at length about what other options authors have when planning a virtual tour, as well as key tips to look for in online promotion where users’ sites are concerned.

Peer reviews were highlighted as a valuable tool for authors, especially through sites like Goodreads, despite some of the recent difficulties users have found in trusting the reviews found on the site due to its terms of service. BooksILove, a free app for book reviewing and discovery, is another option for reviewing titles, but with a lot less intensive involvement.

The second half of the panel focused on the feasibility and benefits of finding book clubs to read an author’s work, not just in terms of sales to the participants, but also for the buzz and word-of-mouth aspects of being a book club selection. Lynn Bettancourt of Savannah Bound to Please runs a book club with both live and virtual participants numbering over 300 members, and spoke about the ability of authors to reach out to groups with their titles.

Recordings of the panels from the PubSmartCon will be made available soon.

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One of the more crowded panels at the recent PubSmartCon was the Bowker-sponsored panel, Discoverability in the Digital Age, a session which addressed the increasingly difficult task authors face–both traditionally published and self-published–in finding an audience for their works. With independent bookstores closing at an alarming rate and even libraries facing door-shuttering budget cuts, authors have lost a lot of the champions who once sold books by hand, who knew the titles on their store shelves and recommended them to their customers. Coupled with the influx of content as new books are published daily, quality material can still languish without a reader to find it.

One of the recommendations for authors in attendance was to begin the marketing three to six months before the anticipated release date, something that still takes place in the traditional industry. Whether it’s through the author’s own social media and website or through joint promotion and virtual word of mouth, the time to generate that all-important buzz is well before it makes its way to market.

Panelist Tarah Theoret of NetGalley spoke on the ability for self-published authors to generate advanced reader copies and galleys of their books through CreateSpace by simply building a copyedited version of the book and ordering a set number of proofs. This can not only provide reviews to be posted upon the release, but can also give the author feedback from willing and concerned participants. Digital galleys are also secure ways to inexpensively share copies prior to release.

“Not all discovery is equal. Study after study has shown that eighty percent of books are discovered through word of mouth from trusted friends,” explained Elizabeth Dimarco from BooksILove. “That other twenty percent is not to be disregarded though.” BooksILove designed a discovery tool app that people can use while actively having conversations about books by accessing the app on their smartphones or devices. “What we discovered is that recommendations aren’t meant to be done in isolation.”

Dimarco stated that avid book readers not only recommend books to their friends, but they also want feedback at a later time on what those friends ultimately decided about those books, or whether they read them at all.

In a lunchtime keynote address, Hugh Howey explained that the loss of physical bookstores has done more harm for discovery than any glut of self-published titles could ever do. He recounted his days working in a bookstore and recalled the many times he physically pointed to a particular book by way of recommendation to a consumer. With the continued loss of these recommendation engines, authors are having to do more work to stay relevant and be noticed among other authors.

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Result Source has been one of the premier businesses that appeals to writers looking to game the system and get their book on bestseller lists. Due to a myriad of factors the company has shuttered their online presence, all but disappearing.

Result Source was making millions of dollars from charging authors up to $250,000 for them to buy their own books via bulk discounting. Result Source would break up the sales into organic chunks that made it seem like thousands of people were buying them. This would fool book reporting agencies like Nielsen Bookscan and the book would make the Washington Post, New York Times or Amazon bestseller lists.

Good e-Reader and the New York Times both reported on this company, many times. This has prompted Result Source from deleting all of their social media accounts and taking down their website. There is a single landing page with a contact form and it looks like the company has taken the money and ran with it.

Why exactly is Results Source abandoning their business model? Most of their client base of authors are clergyman and priests. The most notable one was Mark Driscoll who pastors a large church in Seattle and recently paid Results Source more than $200,000 to get his book onto the New York Times bestseller list. The scheme included hiring people to purchase 6000 copies of the book in bookstores, then ordering another 5000 copies in bulk. Apparently the IRS is now investigating Results Source and the Churches for misappropriation of Church funds.

Result Source is no longer a viable option for authors looking to get that extra boost in their book sales and make the bestseller list. The fact that they have abandoned their operations leaves an opening for another company to take their place.

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Apr
20

54% of USA Adults Read eBooks

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A new study conducted by Nielsen has proclaimed that 54% of USA adults currently read eBooks. Not only is digital on the rise but overall the average person is reading more books on a yearly basis.

Interestingly, there appears to be an intersection at work between how Americans read and how much they read. Those who read either more or exclusively in the eBook format are more likely to read over 20 books in an average year (30%) than either those who read more/only in hard copy (18%) or those who read in both formats equally (21%). They also report a higher average readership per year than either hard copy hardliners or equal-opportunity readers (22.5 books vs. 16 and 15, respectively).

Looking at the number of books purchased in the past year, with a reported average of 14 books, those favoring eBooks purchased roughly twice as many as those preferring hard copies, who purchased an average of less than seven.

However, in terms of overall users, the hard copy format is still king. Nearly half of Americans (46%) say they only read hard copy books, with an additional 16% saying they read more hard copy books than e-books. Seventeen percent (17%) read about the same number of hard copy and e-format books, while 15% read more and 6% read exclusively in the electronic format.

The Harris Poll was conducted on behalf of Nielsen and surveyed 2,234 adults in the USA. The results in this report tend to conflict with the ones in the Pew Research report that was conducted in January. Pew mentioned “The percentage of adults who read an eBook in the past year has risen to 28%, up from 23% at the end of 2012. At the same time, about seven in ten Americans reported reading a book in print, up four percentage points after a slight dip in 2012, and 14% of adults listened to an audiobook.” Interestingly, only four percent of the survey respondents stated that they are strictly ebook readers, shunning print entirely.

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The newspaper industry has lost billions of dollars in the last 10 years in advertising revenue due to Google and has seen a decline in subscriptions. A new report from the Newspaper Association of America paints a bleak picture of revenue in 2013.

The Newspaper Association of America said revenue fell 2.6% to $37.6 billion in 2013. Meanwhile advertising revenue fell 6.5% to $23.6 billion in the same period.

These losses were slightly offset by increases in digital advertising and Paywalls from the New York Times and a myriad of others. This contributed to a 3.7% jump in circulation revenue. Still, digital advertising growth, while not growing as fast as some in the industry have hoped, continued to climb. Mobile ad spending soared 77%, although it still accounts for less than 1% of total newspaper revenue.

In order to build a better future for digital advertising revenue, some companies are betting big on developing their own add exchanges. One initiative that launched last year was the News Corp Global Exchange, that brought together the ad space of 50 websites and mobile/tablet products including Times.co.uk, TheSun.co.uk, NYPost.com, TheAustralian.com.au, MarketWatch.com and News.com.au. It allows advertisers to use one portal to advertise in the entire network, or just a specific publication.

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With its focus on helping authors meet the financial needs of publishing books, Pubslush does more than just create a platform for book preorders. Yesterday, vice president and co-founder Amanda Barbara spoke to Good e-Reader about a contest the site is hosting through their company, the Little Reader Snapshot Contest.

In conjunction with the Children’s Book Council and timed to coincide with the annual Children’s Book Week (May 12-18, 2014), Pubslush’s contest encourages parents to upload snapshots of their children reading their favorite books. The contest, aimed at readers ages twelve and under, includes a prize package worth $500 in books, with varies titles made available for different ages.

Now in its 95th year, Children’s Book Week is the longest running literacy initiative in the US. The work of promoting the event every year falls under the non-profit organization Every Child A Reader. Organizations like schools, libraries, and citizen groups will host various events at the local level in conjunction with Book Week.

For Pubslush’s contest, participants upload a photo of their children to one of four different age categories; a category for classroom readers is also open. The photos will be voted on through Pubslush’s Facebook page, and the winner in each category with the most votes will be awarded a book bundle to continue the reading fun. Entrants may promote their readers’ photos on Twitter under the hashtags #littlereader and #CBW14. The contest is open now through May 18th, and a winner will be announced on May 20th.