Indie Author News

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Author Earnings
You have to hand it to Hugh Howey and the elusive Data Guy: they do a great but thankless service for which they receive heaps of professional scorn, but they don’t let that stop them. Every time they release a new Author Earnings report filled with charts and graphs and actual information culled over countless hours at the computer, I remember the scene from the film Day After Tomorrow when Jake Gyllenhaal’s character pleads with the people to not go out into the storm, begging them to save themselves and warning them they will die if they go out there.

They don’t listen, of course. And then they die.

But the fact that Author Earnings has been providing solid data–regardless of the people who declare that the data is not solid, despite having no other proof of that statement other than their status as well-known industry professionals–all this time has done little to change the minds of the top names in publishing. They still wave their hands dismissively and continue along the course they’ve been charting for four hundred years.

The “executive summary,” or key takeaways of the findings in this January 2015 report, states:

  • “AuthorEarnings reports analyze detailed title-level data on 33% of all daily ebook sales in the U.S.
  • 30% of the ebooks being purchased in the U.S. do not use ISBN numbers and are invisible to the industry’s official market surveys and reports; all the ISBN-based estimates of market share reported by Bowker, AAP, BISG, and Nielsen are wildly wrong.
  • 33% of all paid ebook unit sales on Amazon.com are indie self-published ebooks.
  • 20% of all consumer dollars spent on ebooks on Amazon.com are being spent on indie self-published ebooks.
  • 40% of all dollars earned by authors from ebooks on Amazon.com are earned by indie self-published ebooks.
  • In mid-year 2014, indie-published authors as a cohort began taking home the lion’s share (40%) of all ebook author earnings generated on Amazon.com while authors published by all of the Big Five publishers combined slipped into second place at 35%.”

The newest information from the most recent Author Earnings report includes its usual proof in the pudding of how indie authors are faring in the current book retail market, but also includes an interesting topic that hasn’t received as much attention due to the availability of months of back data: Kindle Unlimited numbers.

“A quick aside on Kindle Unlimited (KU). The indie share of author earnings includes 8% from KU borrows of indie books. In our last report, KU was a brand new part of the author-earnings landscape. To account for it accurately, we crowdsourced borrow-versus-buy ratios from hundreds of indie authors participating in KU, and found that they averaged 1:1 (half KU borrows, half full-price purchases). We used that 50% borrow ratio as a baseline in our author earnings calculations, although we found that plugging in any other ratio instead, even 0% borrows or 100% borrows, made little difference in the overall numbers and pie charts. In November, when Amazon.com announced the size of the October KU “pot” at $5.5 million and the indie per-borrow payout at $1.33, we could now double-check our crowdsourced KU-borrow ratio of 50%. So we did:

$5.5 million / $1.33 = 4,135,338 indie KU borrows in October

Which is exactly 48% of the 8,561,293 paid monthly downloads (purchases + borrows) of Indie & Uncategorized books in KU shown by our data — quite close to the 50% we originally crowdsourced. Perhaps the wisdom of crowds is a thing, after all.”

For a closer look at the in-depth report (and all of its pretty charts and graphs), click HERE.

BookBaby-logo
Since the original innovations in digital publishing and self-publishing first came along, there have been a few upgrades and features added to the concept, but nothing that really shook up the process, at least not in the same way that self-publishing originally turned the publishing world on its collective head. But a new program from ebook and print distributor BookBaby stands to be the first true game changer for indie authors since the recent revolution took off.

While there’s nothing inherently amazing about print-on-demand, being able to combine print-on-demand with a far reaching distribution program is. Authors who currently use CreateSpace–arguably the most trafficked POD service for self-publishing–really only have the option to list their physical books on Amazon, the CreateSpace e-store, and a their own blogs if they choose to fulfill the shipping options themselves. While there is a free expanded distribution option with CreateSpace that at least makes it possible for libraries and bookstores to stock the titles, it sees limited results for most authors.

BookBaby’s new program will distribute self-published print-on-demand titles to retailers like Barnes and Noble through their website (with the potential due to sales and customer requests for in-store sales), Amazon, Powells, NASCORP, Ingram Network, Baker & Taylor Network, plus up to another 150 other outlets.

This program is an add-on to their existing print services, and only requires a one-time minimum order of 25 copies of the professionally printed book. While ebook conversion and distribution is available, it is not required in order to take advantage of the print-on-demand option. That means an author can still offer his ebook on Amazon at his own terms and under his own name, as well as take full advantage of Amazon’s exclusive KDP Select program and its benefits, while still offering his print edition through the other networks.

The best part? One of the chief concerns that prevents bookstores from carrying self-published works is the inability to return unsold titles, even at the author’s cost. BookBaby’s program will allow these outlets–from the local indie bookshop to Barnes and Noble’s physical locations–to return unsold books for a full refund, while still not incurring any cost to the author. BookBaby will absorb the cost of the refund.

“This is different from any other Print On Demand program out on the marketplace,” said Steven Spatz, BookBaby President. “Self-published authors deserve to have a place on the book store shelves around the world, and our program delivers the maximum exposure through retail stores and wholesale catalogs.”

Unlike many companies who offer publishing tools for indie authors, BookBaby does not take an additional royalty on each item sold. The full remaining percentage after the retailer’s cut goes to the author. There are metrics involved in factoring the royalty on the print-on-demand titles, but they are comparable to other distributors in the industry.

digi pub china
If there was every any doubt about the need for authors and publishers to distribute their books abroad, a new report on book consumption in China may have just put those thoughts to rest. While China does boast the largest single-country population on the planet, those numbers translate into an incredible amount of sales within the various provinces.

What is more interesting about the report was the breakdown by genre within the different regions, as well as the accumulation of where books are being bought in the highest numbers. One particular province, for example, bought more books than the combined sales of sixteen other provinces. Capital cities of the provinces and different universities in various provinces were also examined to discover the overall rate of book buying and the genres that sold the most copies in each location.

According to an article on the findings for AnhuiNews.com, “Chinese people purchased 33 million books via dangdang.com in 2014. The top three provinces for book consumption are Guangdong with 16.89 percent, Beijing 11.39 percent, and Jiangsu 7.01 percent. They are followed by Shanghai 6.45 percent, Shandong 6.23 percent and Zhejiang 5.71 percent.”

While this report took into account the total book buying habits of consumers, ebooks also saw a spike in consumption.

“E-book consumption has increased dramatically along with the development and popularization of smart phones. The ratio of e-book sales to hardcopy sales rose from 10 percent to 30 percent in 2014. The top three sales regions are also the biggest e-book markets: Guangdong, Beijing and Jiangsu. It has become popular for readers to read and buy e-books by mobile phone. In 2014, 60 million e-books were downloaded, which is equal to 20 percent of hardcopy sales. That figure is 10 percent higher than that in 2013.”

This news should serve as a conversation starter for authors and publishers–especially smaller press publishing houses–who have yet to explore the options of international distribution, an important market option considering the lack of available English language content in direct proportion to the numbers of English speakers in many of these countries.

write-upload-sell

Draft2Digital has announced that self-publishers who use their service have a new distribution channel. The US company has ironed out a new agreement with Tolino, a German based online bookstore.

The Tolino Alliance was formed in 2013 and their mandate was to combat Amazon in Germany. This marked the first occasion that  Thalia, Weltbild, Hugendubel, Club Bertelsmann, Deutsche Telekom all banded together to forge a series of e-reading devices and launch an online bookstore. Not only are books and readers sold all over Germany but recently they expanded to Belgium via Standaard Boekhandel.

It has been said that Tolino controls  42% of the German e-Book market, which is the third largest English-language e-Book market in the world.  Draft2Digital currently has a catalog of 40,000+ books, which makes it a minor player in self-publishing.

Many American authors are pleased at the new distribution channel. In order to enroll your books there is a big red button that will add your titles to Tolino all at once, which makes things easier than doing it one by one.

indie-authors
In some ways, the current state of digital publishing is even more mysterious to indie writers than when the doors first opened on publishing a handful of years ago. With so many more options than the first wave of publishing revolution, even seasoned, published authors may find some of the new options and features a little daunting.

Two of the many reliable, on-going sources of information will be staging their monthly online events today with topics aimed at furthering the careers and success of self-published authors.

The first is the Alliance of Independent Authors’ monthly “Ask ALLi” roundtable with guest experts Joanna Penn and Orna Ross. Penn, a New York Times and USA Today bestselling thriller author who was named one of The Guardian UK Top 100 Creative Professionals in 2013, will share insights into the current state of self-publishing with author, ALLi director, and sought-after industry expert Orna Ross. Together the pair will take questions and offer tips and solutions.

Later tonight, the weekly Bibliocrunch Twitter chat #IndieChat will take place at its usual time, only this week’s guest is far from usual. One of the top issues that continues to plague indie authors isn’t in the writing, editing, or publishing side of the business, but in the marketing and promotion aspect. Tonight’s #IndieChat guest is Shari Stauch, founder of Where Writers Win, a company dedicated to working with authors with a spectrum of budgetary allowances to offer every type of promotion service, from outright media campaigns to simply building their websites.

Participation in both events is free and simple. For the ALLi event, simply sign in to join the Google Hangout by following THIS LINK. The event kicks off at 11am ET/4pm GMT. For the #IndieChat hosted by Bibliocrunch, simply sign into your Twitter account and follow the hashtag at 9pm ET. Remember to include the hashtag in your tweets to join in the conversation.

Espresso-book-machine-Esp-001
When the digital revolution kicked off, it sparked a wave–for better or for worse, depending on which supporter or critic you ask–of self-publishing opportunities that many were quick to take advantage of. But there were key groups who were left out at first, namely children’s book authors, graphic novelists, photo array creators, and similar content developers. But thanks to companies like Blurb, Draft2Digital, Story2Go, and many more, there are now opportunities for a wide variety of publishing types.

This has led to an increase in interest in private self-publishing, or a model of publishing in which an individual simply wants to have a professional-looking print or digital edition of a book that will not be listed for major sale. While outlets like CreateSpace function to list a professional-grade print copy on Amazon’s retail website, others like the addition of print services from Nook Press simply make print-on-demand copies available for the author to purchase.

A recent article for Economic Times highlighted the need for cookbooks to have a publishing process, as more and more people are sharing their old family recipes within their group of relatives, and are looking for a professional option. While church cookbooks in particular have long been a fundraising option, the results were often shoddy plastic spiral bindings between two pieces of card stock, while the books themselves had to be ordered in minimum shipments of bulk that the organizations then had to turn around and sell at an astounding price, just to make a return.

With print-on-demand, though, not only is the option available for single-purchase at much lower prices, the option to list the book on sites like Amazon is still there if organizations choose to direct their customers to the retailer and make their royalty that way. Of course, they are also free (and encouraged, even) to order their own copies at a significant savings and sell them at events as impulse purchases.

In the case on the family cookbook featured in Economic Times, the book actually went on to be picked up by HarperCollins India, given that it was a large collection of regional favorites and nothing else like it was available at the time. The publisher has gone on to actively seek out other cookbooks for the same reason.

rp_indiatablet.jpg
One of the early adoption markets for tablet use, K12 digital textbooks, and a thriving e-commerce site to offer ebooks was India, but recent reports have shown somewhat stagnant responses, which experts have attributed to a lack of reliable wifi and internet connectivity throughout the country, as well as concerns about posting credit card information on unreliable digital infrastructure. But a new multi-billion dollar initiative from the Indian government in conjunction with a major telecom provider may change all that with the institution of free wifi in 2,500 cities across the country.

The Digital India project will create some 50,000 to 60,000 hotspots in various cities, and offer citizens data plans through telecom-provider BSNL. These data plans, which will function in much the same way that consumers currently subscribe to data plans, will offer the free data packages, with the option to purchase additional data each month after the free threshold has been reached.

According to an outline of the project, the goals include:

  • Broadband highways to connect all villages and cities of India
  • Everywhere mobile connectivity; wherein mobile coverage will be provided to every nook and corner of India
  • Public Internet Access Program wherein internet accessibility to the web will be provided at subsidized rates (example public WiFis)
  • eGovernance in every government department, wherein 100% paper-less environment will be encouraged
  • e-Kranti, wherein government services would be electronically delivered
    Information for All policy (which includes provisioning of Right to Information using the Internet as a medium)
  • Electronics manufacturing
  • IT for Jobs
  • Early harvest program

How does this affect the publishing industry? Nearly all sectors of publishing have seen lagging adoption–slower than predicted, at least–due to concerns of connectivity. While educational initiatives have put devices in place, retail websites like Flipkart and Amazon India have introduced easy ebook purchasing, and even major self-publishers have brought the platform to authors in India, the lack of internet connection has been blamed for disappointing results in publishing.

download3-e1381585433273
The digital revolution and its subsequent self-publishing hey day have perhaps sparked more change in literature and publishing than any event since Gutenberg started tinkering, but for all of the great talk of “equalizing” and breaking down barriers, what industry watchers were really referring to was text-based novels. A number of demographics in the publishing business were left out, such as comic book creators, graphic novelists, children’s book authors, and more.

But as startups began to recognize the self-publishing and digital platform spheres were overloaded with options for authors, a few other companies began quietly meeting the needs that other companies had overlooked. One such market was the image-heavy ebook space, where books had to be converted into apps for consumption in various operating system-specific app stores rather than sold through e-reading sites like Amazon or B&N.

Story2Go, first interviewed by Good e-Reader at Frankfurt Book Fair in 2013, launched at the time with an inexpensive iOS app that allowed authors and creators to essentially build their ebooks with simple drag-and-drop and uploading features, then rely on the bigger guns to actually distribute the book to a variety of app stores. While the process of creating the file isn’t entirely intuitive–this is no “Children’s eBooks for Dummies” level of process–there are clear-cut instructions at each step of the way to help authors along.

For a limited time, the Story2Go app is free in the Apple App Store, and despite the time that the company has producing and distributing books on behalf of authors, the price to distribute is still only a one-time $99 fee for the first platform, and $149 for multiple app stores.

digital-textbooks-1
Once you secure your position as the ultimate player in self-publishing, where do you go from there? The textbook self-publishing market. Amazon has released the specifics on its new textbook creator app, Kindle Textbook Creator, and while it doesn’t look like it has much to offer in the way of never-before-seen innovation, it does bring the benefits of self-publishing to those who have something great to share in terms of academia.

Just as Khan Academy and the advent of online video uploads brought a whole new realm of instruction to the internet and classrooms alike, the ability to build, sell, and market something that looks like a textbook but behaves like any other title in the Amazon Kindle store–except for the very obvious difference, you can’t read it on a Kindle–renews the coup of self-publishing for a whole new demographic of content creators.

According to an article by Darrell Etherington for TechCrunch, “Kindle Textbook Creator seems designed for speed, and for working with the legacy textbook publishing industry, as opposed to iBooks Author which is more designed to help educators build digital-native experiences from scratch. Books built with Amazon’s new tool offer multi-color highlighting for students, as well as built-in notebooks, flashcards for review, dictionaries, and of course multi-platform support, in addition to translating the PDF version of their document into something that works on any reader.”

Currently in a rudimentary format, Amazon has already stated new features will be rolled out as they become available. What also remains to be seen is how the possibility for professional academic publishing can evolve with a tool like this one, considering the intense pressure some universities place on their faculty to publish. As self-published fiction authors have discovered, what may be lost in prestige can be more than made up for in dollars.

growth-con-bookshout
BookShout, the ebook distribution platform that has seen a great deal of recent success in partnering with publishers to produce sales dashboards and seamless, device-agnostic file integration for ebook consumers, announced at today’s DBW event that several industry veterans from across major publishers have joined BookShout’s team for its new print distribution initiative.

According to a release, BookShout is joining forces with Ingram Content Group’s existing ability to drop-ship print titles for bulk orders of print titles, a feature that publishers and authors alike can benefit from.

The new additions to the New York-based team include Tim Murray, formerly of Simon & Schuster, as the new VP of Sales; Timothy Cheng, formerly of Perseus Book Group,  as the Director of Sales; and Libby Jordan, formerly of HarperCollins, as VP of Marketing and Business Development.

“We are honored to work with Ingram, numerous top publishers, and bestselling and up-and-coming authors,” said Jason Illian, CEO and founder of BookShout, of the new initiative. “We believe our technology can help all parties create new sales channels while building audience and generating more revenue.”

BookShout already has existing collaboration in place with over 4,500 publishers, and its iOS and Android apps, HTML5 mobile and web readers help ensure that consumers can access digital titles in virtually any format for e-reading. This print partnership will secure access for consumers who prefer physical books, and allow rights holders to order large quantities of their content for a variety of purposes.

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Sourcebooks-logo
At this year’s Digital Book World event, there’s a highly anticipated panel on publishers selling directly to readers, branding themselves for their loyal fans in such a way that there’s no need to haggle with Amaz– make that, negotiate with book retailers.

Unfortunately, this highly anticipated panel just isn’t new. Publishing industry events have been debating the ins and outs of reaching readers directly for several years, and companies have been exhibiting at these events for that same amount of time, promising both publishers and authors they could reach out to book audiences and seamlessly sell content, wiping out the need to pay fees or argue over how much a book should cost.

If it was such an innovative idea, what’s taken so long? More importantly, what will it take to get it right?

Good e-Reader spoke with Dominique Raccah, CEO of Sourcebooks and a force to be reckoned with where publishing innovation is concerned. Raccah, who will be speaking on this panel on Thursday, about what it takes to successfully market and sell to readers.

“I believe that we should not be competing with our retail partners, that we need to be providing to consumers a different thing than we’re providing through retailers. In a way, if you look at the fashion industry, that’s kind of what they did. When they started selling directly to consumers and opening their own stores, they were selling different things than you would buy when you went into Macy’s. The holdup [for Sourcebooks] was figuring out what was the different thing that we were going to offer to consumers that was not going to sell on Amazon and Barnes and Noble and also to you.”

Despite efforts from different major publishers to sell books directly through their own websites, even in the face of pricing disputes and lack of access to titles offered by retailers at one point, it isn’t a concept that has grown. This has largely been due to discovery issues, and the fact that consumers rely on book recommendations and knowledge of their favorite authors more than the name of the publisher.

“There’s only one differentiator there, and it’s going to end up being price, and that’s not a war we’re going to win. That doesn’t do anything any good for authors, doesn’t do anything good for publishers, and I’m not sure it does anything good for retailers. That is a non-starter for me.”

Sourcebooks found its niche in offering B2C content in its multiple award-winning Put Me in the Story personalized ebook platform, and through its content such as calendars sold under the site Sourcebooks bought recently, Simple Truths.

“When I went into D2c, I was really interested in finding a key differentiator that allowed us to bring value to everybody in the supply chain–our authors, our retail partners, and consumers–so that we were adding value as opposed to competing with ourselves.”

The Put Me in the Story product line is not available from Sourcebooks’ retail partners, but the marketing data has already proven that the personalized editions of the books raises the profile–and therefore, the sales–of the non-personalized, standard versions of the same bestselling titles. At the same time, a lot of Simple Truths’ titles are not available through retailers, but reach a focused consumers base.

“This idea is to create a different relationship with the customer, and what that allows is a marketing relationship and a retail relationship.”

The ideas that Raccah will speak to also have implications in self-publishing, especially in terms of authors selling their own content via their websites. While authors like Hugh Howey do offer a shopping art of their titles through their own sites, most authors will need to rely on the brand exposure a major retailer can offer. Raccah’s experience points to the need for those authors to offer a different or coordinating product that doesn’t compete with their retail partners, but instead complements the titles available elsewhere.

digital-self-publishing
DBW has been conducting in-depth author surveys over the past few years, releasing annual reports on the state of publishing from the viewpoints of these survey respondents. The results, which will be compiled, examined, and released at next week’s Digital Book World event, attempt to give a clear picture of how authors are faring in both traditional and self-publishing, along with their perceptions of the industry at this time.

A commenter on a recent blog post of Hugh Howey’s linked to his own survey responses, which at the time gave a preliminary breakdown of others’ responses up to that point. Far from scientific, it does provide a peek into how authors are responding, as well as to the types of questions that industry experts still consider to be relevant at this point in the digital revolution.

The preliminary, basic data can be viewed here.

According to the data at the time of the respondent’s participation, 2,188 people answered the question, “What kind of publisher has published your books?” and an additional 778 people skipped the question. Remember, these numbers represent the number of authors who had answered the survey up to the time that the respondent answered; that number may have easily grown by now. But of those two thousand-plus individuals, almost 72% of them have self-published, an additional 15% or so published through a company which they also own or co-own.

Even more interesting than most of the other data is the all-important income question. With so many respondents reporting that their primary reason for writing and publishing involves earning money or quitting a full-time job, it was telling that only 281.7% of the nearly three thousand answers earn more than the annual income of a full-time minimum wage employee; 42.9% of those who answered the question earned between $0 and $499 last year.

But if authors are not earning much, why are so many of them stating they will continue to self-publish?

The usual answers to that question still apply. Authors carve the creative control over their work, and they’ve come to realize that self-publishing affords them an almost equal chance for income potential as a traditional publishing deal, as evidenced largely by the fact that 24.8% of those who responded said they’d published through a traditional publisher who offered a royalty split, but who did not pay them an advance.

While the final report will not be available until the DBW event, last year’s report on the same topic was conducted in conjunction with Writer’s Digest magazine, meaning many of the respondents had the opportunity to participate due to their subscription to the magazine; WD has a slant towards the traditional publishing industry, and features information in each issue on how to get published via that route. Just as with last year’s survey, a large number of the participants are also not yet published, or have not even completed a manuscript, which could cause the income discrepancy between successful, satisfied respondents and those who said they are dissatisfied with their level of success.

Last year’s report was “debunked” by a number of sources, including this piece posted on the Alliance of Independent Authors blog.

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Image courtesy of blog.masslive.com

Image courtesy of blog.masslive.com

There’s a seedy underbelly to the world of digital self-publishing, and it’s best if we all just walk away. If you look too closely in the darkened corners of the Amazon Kindle store, you may be the next victim of titles like A Billionaire Dinosaur Forced Me Gay and Taken By The Haunted HDMI Cable (we promise, unfortunately, that both of these titles are all too real).

So when author Lacy Noonan decided to have some sexy, satirical fun with a book more in line with this sphere of the internet, she wrote what promised to be the first book in a series of Gronkerotica titles. Yes, there is a forthcoming series of erotica  featuring New England Patriots’ own tight end (no tasteless jokes, please) Rob Gronkowski, otherwise known as Gronk. Noonan’s title, A Gronking to Remember, well…go look it up for yourself.

Unfortunately, Kindle fans of bizarre sex play featuring NFL players will be disappointed to know that–despite tonight’s 35-31 win over the Baltimore Ravens–Gronk’s sexscapades are no longer available in ebook format. Was it because it was too steamy for e-readers to handle? Was it just too much for 50 Shades fans to swoon over?

No. As it turns out, the NFL is actually serious about copyright issues. Noonan’s cover features an image of Gronkowski that not only did the author not have permission to use, but also dips so far into the realm of low-class as to have a patch in honor of the team’s owner’s recently deceased wife located prominently on his jersey. That’s not to say that the NFL would have overlooked the copyright issue if the “MHK” patch was not front and center, but it certainly didn’t help the author’s case.

For her part, Noonan has stated she didn’t realize it would be a problem, and has apologized. Amazon removed the self-published ebook, but the paperback is still available as that is a CreateSpace title, which is a separate entity within Amazon’s platform. For those of you who mourn the lost opportunity of reading the ebook, don’t worry, the reviews are still online and they’re even more fun than any Gronkerotica could ever be.

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