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Online magazine and eBook publishing company Blurb has been busy of late. They have just a signed a new global retail distribution partnership with Ingram Content Group, and free output to reflowable ebooks for all Amazon Kindle devices and Kindle readers.

Blurb now has the broadest self-publishing platform available, enabling indie authors to publish books, magazines, and ebooks in multiple formats, and then sell direct on Blurb.com or via distribution programs with Amazon and Ingram. There is not too many self-publishing companies that are heavily invested in the magazine space, other than Glossi, who is entirely online.

“Authors, like artists, want two things: Control over their product and process, and fair compensation for their quality work,” said Eileen Gittins, founder and CEO, Blurb. “The elements are now all here for indie authors to design, market and sell their books – at a healthy margin – via global distribution to booksellers both online and at retail. We’re thrilled to deliver a truly complete offering for creatives of all kinds who want to bring their passions to life. Authors can now make the beautiful books Blurb is known for at more competitive prices.”

Ingram is likely the biggest deal for Blurb others, because it gets their books physically printed in over 39,000 locations.  Here is some info the company provided to us on options for indie authors.

“Blurb’s new Trade Books come in three industry-standard trim sizes:  5×8, 6×9, and 8×10, in uncoated text-weight paper.

Trade Books are available in both hardcover and softcover, and all formats are eligible for global distribution through Ingram, giving Blurb authors a much broader target audience.

Authors have two print options: Economy and Standard. Economy printing offers a lower print-on-demand starting price ($3.99 for color, $2.99 for black and white), while Standard printing features a wider color range and rich blacks, comparable to Blurb’s existing trade and pocket book printing.”

 

Unlimited

Amazon Kindle Unlimited is a new program that for a small monthly fee allows you to read 10 eBooks at a time. No major publisher has bought into the Amazon initiative, which insures that there is a tremendous lack of mainstream or bestsellers. Instead, the Seattle company relies on its own cadre of indie authors to populate the ecosystem with their titles from Kindle Direct Publishing. What has prevented Unlimited from really taking off and being embraced by readers? The lack of quality titles produced by indie authors.

In order for an indie author to be enrolled in Kindle Unlimited, they must opt into the Kindle Direct Publishing Select program. This allows their titles to be showcased in the Kindle Lending Library and made available for people to read for free. It also provides many advanced tools, such as free promotional pricing. KDP Select authors are automatically enrolled in Kindle Unlimited and this is how it works. If someone reads their eBook past the 10% mark, the author will get paid on average about a dollar. The money is paid from a revolving pool of revenue that Amazon has on a monthly basis.

Amazon relies on exclusivity for their authors to be opted into the Kindle Lending Library and Kindle Unlimited. This prevents authors from only promoting their works on Amazon and not on Kobo Writing Life, Nook Press or Smashwords.

The bulk number of titles on Unlimited are all produced by indie authors. There are 600,000 eBooks and audiobooks that have been opted into the program. Where do the rest of the books come from? Algonquin, Bloomsbury, Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, Open Road, Scholastic and Workman.

Some authors such as Hugh Howey were automatically opted into Unlimited, but did not have the same exclusivity as your run of the mill first time author. Howey and others had a limited amount of time they could distribute their titles throughout other retailers but at some point in time, they have to decide whether to fully embrace Unlimited on a title by title basis.

Most of the indie authors that actually make a decent living off of their works often have a head for the business. They are active on Twitter and other social media networks promoting their personal brands. They focus on multiple distribution platforms because it basically takes on average, two years to develop a core readership base. These authors do well because they do not rely on a singular source of revenue, but glean it from Apple, Amazon, B&N, Kobo, Smashwords, Scribd and Oyster. Sadly, the authors that do rely on Amazon for the most part have poorly written titles and will never be purchased or loaned out for free. This makes Unlimited a barren wasteland of quality content from indie authors.

Should avid readers sign up for Unlimited? I would advise against it. The service is only available to residents of the US and there simply isn’t enough quality content to make it really viable beyond the first month.

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Amazon has finally rolled out their pre-order program for all authors who distribute through the Kindle Direct Publishing. Self-published authors will be able to start selling their title before its officially ready, giving them the ability to hype the book in advance and start capturing sales.

Indie authors can only start selling the book 90 days before the book’s release date.  When they make your book available for pre-order, customers can order the book anytime leading up to the release date you set and it will be delivered to them on that date.

One advantage of pre-order is that authors can begin promoting the book before launch to help raise awareness. There are various avenues in the Amazon ecosystem to drum up hype, such as your book’s pre-order page on Author Central, Goodreads, your own site, and elsewhere. Also, pre-orders will contribute toward sales rank and other Kindle Store merchandising even before the book is released, which can help more readers discover your book.

Amazon has just released a helpful FAQ which addresses many of the most popular questions and concerns from the KDP pre-order program that has been beta tested over the last year.

How it works

You’ll list your book as you would with any other KDP book. When you’re adding a new book, on Step 4, “Select Your Book Release Option,” you will choose “Make my book available for pre-order” and set a date in the future. That’s it.

Though your book isn’t available for download yet, we’ll still publish a product detail page for it within 24 hours of approval. Customers can order the book anytime leading up to the release date you set and it will be delivered to them on that date. However, customers won’t be able to download sample content for pre-order books.
You can list pre-order books in all marketplaces except Amazon.com.in, where pre-orders are not currently available. Your book will release at midnight local time in each marketplace.

Requirements

When you list a book for pre-order, you’ll need to upload the final version or a draft manuscript of the book file for review. Typically, a draft manuscript would be something like a complete book that might still need copyediting and proofreading. We won’t show the version to customers, but we’ll need to preview the content for compliance with our Program Policies before creating the pre-order detail page. It will go through the same review process that any other KDP book would. Your final version must be uploaded 10 days before the release date you set.

Eligibility

Only new KDP books are eligible for pre-order. Public domain books are not eligible for pre-order. You may list up to 10 titles at once for pre-order, with room for more pre-order listings as you release each title.

Reporting and Royalty

Your pre-order report is updated as orders are placed. This report includes pre-ordered units, pre-order cancellations, and net pre-order units. Your pre-order sales data will not appear in other reports until after your book is delivered to customers on its release date. After that, you’ll see pre-order units listed in the Prior Months’ Royalties report, under the “Pre-order” transaction type.

Once your book is released and customers start downloading their copies, you will receive credit for final sales. Once you meet the monthly minimum sales threshold, you’ll be paid royalty approximately 60 days after the end of the month.

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The planned acquisition of Perseus Books Group by Hachette and Ingram has collapsed. The deal, which was announced in June, would have seen Perseus’ publishing imprints go to Hachette and its distribution business go to Ingram. Hachette, currently entangled in a long and very public battle with Amazon, relies heavily on fiction bestsellers. Perseus would have added a strong nonfiction backlist.

Until the end of July, Perseus had been working primarily with Hachette. However, talks became more complicated when final discussions with Ingram heated up. Although no one would comment on the particulars, Perseus’s unique position in the book world could have made valuing the company difficult, especially the company’s distribution arm; there has not been a major sale of a distributor since the beginning of the digital book age.

The broken deal is hurting Hachette’s chances of expanding their business past frontlist fiction. Perseus had over 6,000 backlist titles that were non-fiction and Hachette stood to benefit by more diversification in their books. HBG parent Lagardere had told investors in a presentation in late May it was their intention to growth their nonfiction line, and expand HBG USA overall: “It is necessary to be a bigger player in the USA than in the UK in order to secure enough primary rights,” they had said, also noting, “Size is, and will continue to be, a critical asset in the forthcoming years in this market.”

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bowker-print

eBooks have grown to be a billion dollar business and now accounts for 27% of all book sales in the US. Print books are still holding their own and have only declined slightly in 2013 at a paltry 1%.

The decrease in tangible book sales is  partly attributed to less books being printed. Bowker reports that 304,912 books were produced by traditional publishers in 2013 compared to 309,957 in 2012.

The non-traditional publishing sector was hit the hardest due to the rise of public domain and indie authors switching to digital. The print industries output for 2013 was projected at 1,108,183 titles, a decrease of 46% from its production of 2,042,840 titles in 2012 and a dramatic reverse from its 55% growth in 2012 over 2011.

It is very interesting to see the multitude of factors that make up that 1% decline in the print industry. Public domain titles such as Sherlock Holmes, Pride and Prejudice and Moby Dick are all available for free online, but in the stores they range from $5-$29 a pop.

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Publishers and self-publishers are having a love affair with eBooks. Ever since Amazon announced that digital editions were selling at a 3:1 ratio over print books, people took notice. A new report states that 84% of publishers will be making eBooks this year and 62% stated that eBook quality was the most paramount concern.

Big and medium sized publishers are in an advantageous position with in-house tools that make digitizing a book fairly easy. For everyone else, there is seldom an off-the-shelf solution to generate a proper table of contents, use industry standard fonts, employ proper margins or convert it from one format to another. All publishers need to insure their books are formatted correctly in order to not alienate readers.

The survey results highlight many of the concerns that publishers have with going digital. It takes about what online bookstore people have the most success with and what formats are most popular.

2014 Digital Publishing Survey

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Questions 2 & 3

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unnamed

O’Reilly Media, which originally developed Safari Books Online, is now the sole owner of the company, after purchasing Pearson’s 50% stake in the former joint venture.  Safari will not have to consult an equity stake partner anymore and will be able to fast track any type of development they want to pursue.

Safari, launched 13 years ago with 600 titles, is an online content platform success story. Today, the company’s more than 1,000,000 active users can choose from over 25,000 books and 10,000 hours of video training from 200 publishers and other content providers. While Safari initially focused on technology content, it now covers business and design topics, as well.

How is Safari different from other online bookstores? They have been pioneering the online subscription model for a very long time. They also have videos, short form content, and evolving manuscripts from O’Reilly Media and other publishers including Addison-Wesley, Prentice Hall, Peachpit, John Wiley & Sons, Microsoft Press, Adobe Press, Cisco Press, Manning Publications, Packt, SAS Publishing, IBM Press, FT Press and Focal Press. You could say that Safari is known for having a high degree of geek cred, but certainly won’t appeal to your average Hunger Games reader.

Many people use Safari because they have a ton of obscure content that is not available anymore else. If you are unable to find any results on Google, try Safari, they normally have it.

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The Chinese digital publishing industry is on the rise. Newspapers, magazines, comics and eBooks garnered 42 billion USD in 2012. This is a massive figure, but it only really accounted for 11.6% of the entire publishing industry. Chinese digital publishing has really grown up over the last two years with more companies focusing on smartphone delivery. New research has proclaimed that by the end of 2014, digital publishing will be valued at over 56 billion.

The Chinese digital publishing industry is targeting smartphones in a big way. There is currently 700 million active phones running Android, Windows or iOS. This is prompting creative deals such as Xiamen Bluebird Cartoon Co. partnering with Trajectory to adopt its popular TV series  Xingxing Fox and Close to the Great Society into digital books for children.

One  of the largest digital publishing websites is run by Cloudary, a website dedicated to contemporary Chinese literature.  They provide a wide range of digital services,  such as online eBook delivery and they also manage  six online reading and writing communities, with a user popular of  1.6 million members.

The thing I really like about the Chinese publishing industry is how innovative they are when compared to the way the North American scene is run.  One of China’s oldest publishing houses,  Zhonghua Book Co, entered the world of multimedia publishing by instigating a poetry contest that targeted mobile phone users.

The format was simple: Applicants simply had to compose an ode using the rigid formulas of classical Chinese poetry and send the resulting poem to Zhonghua via a text message. Over a period of four months, 43 million aspiring poets texted their work, either as original content for the competition or as messages to friends, who in turn forwarded the poem to other recipients.  By the end of the competition, the number of posts and reposts on mobile devices totaled 129 million, a huge number given that Zhonghua’s biggest-selling physical book, Thoughts on the Analects of Confucius sold 320,000 copies.

There are thousands of startups tackling app development, new content delivery methods and cool ways to appeal to the mobile reader.  All of this innovation is occurring due to Amazon, Apple and Google entering the market and fostering innovation. This is ruffling some political feathers, which prompted the  Chinese Central Government to issue a series of guidelines to help traditional publishing enter the digital world and offered financial assistance to make it happen.

China has a very deep rooted publishing industry and many are resistant about going digital. The average customer does not have a Android, Apple or iOS smartphone due to the costs and still rely on tangible books. The lack of technology is certainly the largest barrier, preventing the industry from reaching new heights.  Still, 56 billion US is a ton of money and it is showing that customers are firmly embracing a wide array of media content and  publishers are being savvy.

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Amazon has penned an open letter on their website which spells out their mentality in approaching the ongoing Hachette eBook dispute.  They primarily contend that selling eBooks at the $9.9 price point sells more copies and garners more money than titles that retail for $14.99.

In a written statement Amazon said “A key objective is lower e-book prices. Many e-books are being released at $14.99 and even $19.99. That is unjustifiably high for an e-book. With an e-book, there’s no printing, no over-printing, no need to forecast, no returns, no lost sales due to out-of-stock, no warehousing costs, no transportation costs, and there is no secondary market — e-books cannot be resold as used books. E-books can be and should be less expensive.

It’s also important to understand that e-books are highly price-elastic. This means that when the price goes up, customers buy much less. We’ve quantified the price elasticity of e-books from repeated measurements across many titles. For every copy an e-book would sell at $14.99, it would sell 1.74 copies if priced at $9.99. So, for example, if customers would buy 100,000 copies of a particular e-book at $14.99, then customers would buy 174,000 copies of that same e-book at $9.99. Total revenue at $14.99 would be $1,499,000. Total revenue at $9.99 is $1,738,000. The important thing to note here is that at the lower price, total revenue increases 16%.

Amazon also made the keypoint of exactly how royalties are pointed to be shared between Hachette and the Seattle based company. “While we believe 35% should go to the author and 35% to Hachette, the way this would actually work is that we would send 70% of the total revenue to Hachette, and they would decide how much to share with the author. We believe Hachette is sharing too small a portion with the author today, but ultimately that is not our call.”

In closing Amazon said “Is it Amazon’s position that all e-books should be $9.99 or less? No, we accept that there will be legitimate reasons for a small number of specialized titles to be above $9.99.”

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BookPal has just launched a brand new wholesale eBook operation, that will allow schools, government and businesses to buy titles  in bulk.

When you purchase eBooks from BookPal one of the ways to  read them  is via the  BookPal app. It is a fairly robust with the ability to make highlights, annotations, look up a definition and share excerpts with Facebook or Twitter. In order to customize the overall e-reading experience users can adjust the font size, brightness, margins or initiate night mode. You can download the apps for free for  iOS and Android.

There are over 50,000 titles available at launch, which  come from publishers such as  Perseus Books Group, Harvard Business School Press, Gallup Press, Workman Publishing, Storey and Open Road Media.

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ASHLEY BENSON, TYLER BLACKBURN

Amazon has announced a new partnership with Alloy Entertainment, a division of Warner Bros. The two sides will publish digitally at first, gauging the market to see if a print run is warranted.

The new imprint, which will also use the Alloy Entertainment name, will publish young adult, new adult and commercial fiction titles. Three titles were released for the Kindle today, as part of the partnership; Imitation by Heather Hildenbrand, Every Ugly Word by Aimee Salter, and Rebel Wing by Tracy Banghart.

Warner Bros is hoping to leverage films, television and media properties it owns to develop original works for the Kindle. Leslie Morgenstein, president of Alloy Entertainment, said: “One of our strengths is working with talented authors to create and develop properties that have mass entertainment appeal. This program is an exciting extension of our business and will allow us to leverage Amazon’s ability to distribute to an incredibly diverse and broad readership.”

“Alloy has a tremendous track record developing stories, like Gossip Girl, Pretty Little Liars and The Vampire Diaries, that our customers love,” said Jeff Belle, Vice President of Amazon Publishing. “We’re thrilled to promote these books from Alloy Entertainment with our Powered by Amazon program. It’s a great fit.”

Warner Bros and Amazon have been working together for quite awhile with the Alloy properties. Kindle Worlds, the officially sanctioned fan fiction publishing initiative has been using Vampire Diaries, Pretty Little Liars and Gossip girls as properties for aspiring writings to craft original stories, set in that particular universe. The solidification of Alloy and Amazon might see some of these authors get proper publishing contracts, but likely we will just see movie and television show tie-ins.

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Scholastic has announced in a very covert manner that they are closing the Storia eBook store, as we know it, and transitioning it into STORIA SCHOOL EDITION and Family Streaming Edition. Instead of selling eBooks directly, they intend on adopting the uber popular Netflix for eBooks ideology. What happens to the hundreds of thousands of books already purchased? How does this new subscription system actually work and is it a viable business model?

Storia was Scholastics catch all system for purchasing eBooks on an individual basis. Parents, schools and kids would use the reading app for iOS, Android and the Kindle Fire to purchase books on-demand. In order to preserve your existing content, you have to open the titles by October 2014 or they will be unable to be read them.

You can think of Storia eBooks as dedicated apps, similar to how digital magazines work on the Apple newsstand. If these apps require an update between now and August 2015, they will likely break the book. This is the primarily reason why Scholastic has stealthy offered a refund policy for any books purchased via the Storia platform. They aren’t really doing a good job making this publicly known, as there is a simple one paragraph blurb on their main website about it.

Scholastic confirmed with Good e-Reader that “Our customer service lines are fielding calls, facilitating refunds and assisting schools in transitioning from individual books purchased by teachers to streaming for an entire school. The advantage is easier access and that each ebooks is accessible by more than one child at a time (rather than buying multiple copies) which is a huge plus for the classroom; teachers are also learning about the new student progress tracking features and they like them.”

Scholastic Storia for Education was first announced in April 2014 and will be formally launched at the beginning of September. It is a system that has 2,000 eBooks and will be delivered in a subscription format. The exact rate that schools pay are dependant upon the size of the student body and how much content they intend on downloading. I have heard that the average rate is between $1,500 and $2,000 per year. This system might be beneficial for schools as they can deliver multiple copies of the same book, without having to buy 30 individual copies.

It will likely be awhile before parents and children themselves can opt into the new subscription system. Scholastic has confirmed with Good e-Reader that they are developing a Family Streaming service that is currently in the Research and Development stage. Therefore the sales structure has not been announced as single title or subscription or both. There has been no ETA given for the official launch, but likely we will not hear about until next year. The main priority is to get the new Education system up and running.

Basically, what Scholastic is doing is shuttering selling eBooks directly to schools, parents and kids. Instead, they are adopting a more financially lucrative subscription based system, which alienates families. Why have a parent buy a few titles a year, when you can have steady income generated from hundreds of schools in the US all paying a few thousand dollars a year.

My biggest concern with Storia technology being integrated into Storia for Education is awareness. Parents and Kids may casually use the app on their tablet or phone to buy and read books. They certainly don’t look at the official Storia website or read publishing geared websites like Good e-Reader. What happens when a new 39 Clues book is announced and little Jimmy is a huge fan of the series. They open the Storia app to try and buy it, only to realize all singular title purchases have been suspended and some of their past purchases don’t even work anymore.. Parents will likely be wondering why some titles work and some don’t and blame their device. In the end, they might decide that Amazon, Barnes and Noble or Kobo might be the more viable method to purchase future titles. After all, they don’t change their entire eBook selling paradigm at the drop of a hat.

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A new survey of readers in New Zealand, as reported by Stuff.co.nz, demonstrates that readers still prefer print over digital or audiobooks when it comes to self-selected texts. Despite the growing ebook market and an increase in digital readership in a few key age demographics, print wins out for most and for all the usual reasons.

According to the article on the findings, “Those most in favour of e-books were predictably under 30 year olds who only preferred the printed book by a 28 per cent to 27 per cent margin.

“Those aged 45 to 49 were the most hostile age cohort for e-books with 42 per cent preferring the printed version and 18 per cent an e-reader.

“Consistent with the BBQ debates the major factor cited by those who preferred reading printed books was that they enjoyed the feel and smell. A secondary factor coming through was that there was less strain on the eyes. Lower level factors cited by printed book advocates were they didn’t run out of power, it was easier to skip back and forward, habit and print books filled bookshelves.”

It may seem unrelated to some industry watchers, but the fact that consumers still prefer and buy more print than digital actually speaks to the increased validity of data about how self-published authors are faring in the market. Given that indie authors as a group generally sell more of their ebooks than their print titles, and given that consumers purchase more print than digital, it would show that the greater piece of the publishing pie that indies now earn is on even greater sales. They sell fewer books and at cheaper prices, yet still earn more income than traditionally published authors.

This data is no more prevalent than in the Author Earnings reports, who recent study of Barnes and Noble data showed that self-published authors are earning even higher amounts of income than traditionally published authors.