Indie Author News

Archive for Indie Author News

Amazon-logo-1-
There are reports that Amazon has a Square reader-like device in the works, one that will plug into a smartphone or tablet (presumably not only the Fire phone or Kindle Fire) and allow small business people to take advantage of the reliance on credit cards that many consumers have. Just like other devices by Square and PayPal, this device–whenever it launches, although some sources say it will be advertised by Staples beginning August 12th–will help stand-alone entities who cannot afford the ongoing fees or contracts associated with most POS credit card machines. More importantly, devices such as these allow for portability, such as for sales at outdoor events, moveable festivals, and spur of the moment sales.

Even before Amazon’s attempt at joining this market, these portable devices are a must for indie authors.

Typically, self-published authors take on all the “leg work” associated with their writing careers. That means not only finding their own professionals to assist with the actual creation of the book, but it means the marketing and promotion as well. Authors often find themselves looking for opportunities like speaking engagements, book signings, and more. Whereas a bestselling book tour set up by a major publisher will handle the sales of titles at each stop along the tour, a self-published author typically has to arrange the signing, set up the space at the venue, sell the books, and then sign. Portable card readers from trusted companies make sales far more likely in the increasingly cash-less society.

Also, a number of authors–who’ve been thwarted by bookstores and libraries when they call to request permission for a book signing–find themselves selling their work at events that are not strictly bibliocentric. Outdoor festivals, themed events, and city holidays come to mind. In these cases, there may not even be wifi to work from, let alone a cash register in place. A portable reader feeding into a cellphone can mean the difference between potential readers simply browsing, as opposed to buying.

Finally, just as the age-old “elevator pitch” wisdom meant being prepared to tell an agent or publisher about a manuscript on the off-chance the author bumped into one, the current wisdom for independent authors to be ready to sell a book at any time. The elevator pitch still applies, but it’s now shifted to talking one-on-one to a potential reader. But having a few copies of the authors’ books handy for these instances means giving away their work–which still isn’t a bad thing–but there’s only so long an author can afford to give away her print material. A portable card reader will let the author offer the book to a potential reader and take the reader up on his offer of payment.

But why Amazon’s? If the reader devices themselves are so useful, should it matter?

Obviously, that remains to be seen. Pricing will be the first factor; Square, Intuit, and PayPal readers are free when users sign up at the website, and cost about $10 or so when purchased through a store like Target or OfficeMax. Reports are that the Amazon reader will cost about the same. And with percentage fees as low as 2.4% (Intuit) and 2.8% (Square), it will interesting to see if Amazon’s ingrained drive to be a better value than everyone else results in a lower fee.

Moreover, with the constant threat of credit card fraud and identity theft, consumers may feel some measure of security by handing their cards to someone with the Amazon logo at the top of the card reader. On the flipside, there’s the potential for a customer to refuse on the grounds that they’re in the anti-Amazon camp.

However it works out, authors would do well to make sure they’re able to accept payments in some electronic way in order to maximize on their own hard work.

Hugh Howey posed with Hugh Howey...or is it Data Guy?

Hugh Howey posed with Hugh Howey…or is it Data Guy?

Ludicrous accusations have come out from various corners of the publishing industry, some of which are rabidly anti-Amazon and anti-self-publishing, claiming that the information in the notorious Author Earnings reports is flawed at best, and intentionally misleading at worst. The reports, which claim to only be interested in helping all authors make sound decisions based on a clear look at ebook sales data, are updated quarterly with different facets of bookselling.

Some of these allegations state that the “data is beyond bad,” and even well-known figures in the industry have called into question the very existence of the so-called Data Guy who assembles the numbers. Phillip Jones, editor of The Bookseller, was quoted in an article for The Guardian as saying, “The fact that we don’t know who this ‘Data Guy’ is or where he’s come from suggest that we should take the Author Earnings report with a large pinch of salt.”

Hugh Howey, bestselling author and much of the driving force behind the Author Earnings report, spoke with Good e-Reader about some of the accusations that have been hurled at the reports and their creators.

“Amazon might be surprised at how much writers love having access to information,” Howey explained in the interview. “They have to be good businesspeople. We’re curious about what works, so the more we can provide information, the better.”

One key point Howey made in reference to Amazon’s new pricing tool, KDP Pricing Support, is this: “While Amazon’s been fighting with publishers to get ebook prices down, I also think that a lot of self-published authors aren’t pricing their books high enough. What Amazon wants is to sell as many books as possible, and that means finding the most efficient price between where traditionally published authors and self-published authors price their books.”

But how does this wealth of information translate into arming authors with data?

“In all the punditry, there’s a lot of analysis of the book industry and it’s all focused on gross dollars: how much are bookstores making, how much are publishers making? But if authors are making a very small cut of a lot of those numbers, how is it helping authors to know the percentage of those dollars that are in print? That’s why we chose [Author Earnings] for the name of our website, because we wanted to focus on, ‘How much are the artists getting paid?’”

The site itself has had more than 100,000 unique visitors just in the six months the site has been in operation, which is fairly astounding considering the parties involved haven’t incorporated any promotional tactics other than basic social media sharing of the reports. It demonstrates a clear desire on the part of involved individuals to know more and to see clear data.

That data has been called into question, though, often by sources who see it as faulty but haven’t really explained why other than the argument that Author Earnings’ reports are free to the public and some companies charge for their data, causing some critics to wonder how thorough and accurate this information can be. Howey’s explanation of the information almost seems too simple, even to him, but it involves a tremendous amount of number crunching of the available data.

“If you believe that Amazon ranks books according to how well they’re selling, then there’s no flaw you could find with what we’re doing. We’re doing what you could do with a pencil and a web browser. Anybody could go through all these web pages for all the books  and write down on a spreadsheet what the list price is, who published the book, and what its overall Amazon ranking is. With that information, you could figure out, okay, if a third of these books are self-published and only forty percent are traditionally published, and you do that for 120,000 books, that’s incredible. And we know that self-published authors are making seventy percent and traditionally published authors are making seventeen and a half percent, so even though the price for self-published books is lower it’s more than made up for by the royalty. The reason you haven’t seen anyone tear the methodology apart is because there’s nothing to it. It’s as simple as counting books on the bestsellers’ lists.”

Howey mentioned that the launch of Kindle Unlimited could have an impact on future reports, since there may be a need to correct for the fact that KU borrows are counted in the bestseller rankings. Given the fact that the book has to reach ten percent consumption on the part of the reader to even count as a “sale” or “borrow” for royalty purposes, it would be logical to think that a KU borrow would serve much the same purpose as a typical book sale for ranking purposes.

While Howey was not willing to “out” Data Guy or state the person or persons’ identity, he did assure outright the veracity of Data Guy’s status as a human being, and not some generic algorithm that spits out questionable information.

“What’s been funny is that we use the singular masculine pronoun because that’s what one blogger called my partner. It’s funny because it could be three other people working on this, it could be a company that I’m hiring, it could be a woman. My mom was a math teacher. The bias about who’s good at spreadsheets is funny.

“I’ve provided the data to download. Everyone wants to know what’s going on with Amazon, and our last data report was 120,000 titles. Every ranked book on Amazon has all the information right there if you want to go through and do some additional crunching on it. You can’t crunch it and come up with any other result than self-published authors are taking this huge chunk of income from writers’ market share. You can play with the variables all you want and it does not change the outcome.”

Despite rumors that circulated–and even a few sarcastic remarks–Howey would not name Data Guy specifically due to the fact that authors are prohibited by terms of service from openly sharing their sales figures. He and the other parties involved in creating Author Earnings stood a very real chance of violating those terms, and as Howey himself stated, he worried about pressing publish on the website and finding all of his books removed from Amazon the very next day.

“I’m not going to out the person unless they want to be outed.”

Cynthia-Michaels-book-bubble-889
Any author, traditionally published or indie, can tell you that one of the hardest parts of the business side of being an author is finding genuine promotion opportunities that give authors a real sense of reader engagement. Apart from the flood of social media requests from authors asking consumers to purchase their books, far too many authors don’t have another step in mind for creating active dialogue about their works.

That’s where sites like Bublish come in, bringing with them the opportunities for authors and readers to connect over like content and common interests in reading material. But more than just a place for discussion to happen, Bublish is also building author tools, like the ability to build an email list for targeted announcements and the chance to offer pre-orders.

Bublish, who’s known for its targeted social interaction in which authors and readers connect through book “bubbles,” recently announced it had secured a $300,000 investment in its latest round of private funding, which will allow the company to expand its current features while exploring new capabilities that put control in the authors’ hands. According to the company, this funding round will be earmarked for projects that include “developing a suite of powerful creation and book promotion tools for publishers, additional social media integrations and book distribution services, expanding marketing capabilities and reach, and increasing business development partnerships with key publishers and industry influencers.”

“This investment is a huge endorsement of the Bublish platform,” said Kathy Meis, Bublish
Founder and President. “Our capabilities consistently expand as our user base of authors and
readers continues to grow exponentially.”

Bublish has operated under its concept of “authorpreneurship,” meaning their focus is to empower authors with the equipment to not only be writers, but to be businessmen in charge of their own products as well.

liber_io
Whenever a new tool comes along that makes it even easier for indie authors to share their content with a broader audience, it’s exciting. So after seeing a post by TechCrunch on a new ebook creation platform that doesn’t cost the user any money, uploads seamlessly from his Google Drive account, and can be tailored right there on the screen in front of him, I had to try it out.

Unfortunately, the reality was a little less exciting.

Heading over to liber.io only a little while ago, the very first issue was that Mozilla freaked out about letting me use the site. Two different warning screens came up telling me that Mozilla couldn’t verify the security of the site, and even after telling Mozilla, “It’s okay, I got this,” it was slow and iffy-looking. I logged in with my Google+ account and established a new password, and I appreciated the fact that Liberio pointed out this new password would in no way affect my Google+ password.

After giving Liberio permission to access my contacts list, my email, my DNA sample, and my second grade report card, I was in. Unfortunately, clicking on the only thing that looked like an “Add new file” option didn’t do anything for the first five minutes or so. I finally refreshed the screen twice and it came to life.

The interface is very intuitive, I must say, but it’s not very functional. By clicking on the very large icon that resembles a piece of paper with a plus sign in it, I was finally given a box that let me choose a file from my Google Drive account or directly uploads from my computer. I chose the upload option, selected a manuscript I’ve been playing around with, and waited.

Then complete code filled the box on the screen. Instead of seeing my ebook, absolute gibberish took over. Unfortunately, despite the presence of a trash folder, I can’t see any way to remove the file I uploaded. I right-clicked, I dragged, I sacrificed a small woodland creature…nothing. As an author who now has an unpublished manuscript floating around the internet with no discernible way to remove it, I’m more than a little put out right now.

Now some of you may be chuckling to yourselves and shaking your head at my own ebook incompetence, and I welcome your laughter. It’s quite obvious that either Liberio or I didn’t do something right. Given that Liberio just moved out of private beta per TechCrunch’s announcement, there are kinks that are possibly still being worked out, but if my own misunderstanding of the system was at fault, then I have to say it’s not as intuitive as I thought.

My final assessment is that it will be a powerful tool when it works correctly, and anything that gives authors even better tools is fantastic. I also see tremendous potential for the educational arena, both higher ed and the K12 sectors, as teachers could easily create ebooks of content for their students. And with more and more schools instituting Bring Your Own Device initiatives, ereading is gaining a lot of traction in public schools, meaning teachers can incorporate a lot of original content in the process. Overall, when it works perfectly, this could be something of a game changer.

KDP Pricing
New information and knowledge have come to light thanks to the efforts of a core group of individuals; author Hugh Howey and his mathematical number cruncher Data Guy have released exhaustive information through the Author Earnings reports designed to help authors make informed decisions concerning their publishing.

Rather than fight the Author Earnings efforts and information with their collective heads in the sand, Amazon seems to be reading and incorporating the information into tools for their authors. In the public beta of a new feature, KDP Pricing Support, Amazon has opened a new toolbox for authors to better understand their book pricing and the impact is has on their overall sales.

Amazon’s new tool gives authors who wish to use the free service a snapshot of where similar books are performing and at which price points, thereby recommending a price for their titles. Authors are then given the option to one-click to institute that price for their books. It’s interesting to note that when a Good e-Reader staffer tested the new service, it was discovered that some of the author’s titles were priced as much as seven dollars US lower than the typical book performing at peak sales for that category; other titles were already priced at the recommended $2.99. None of the authors’ books were priced higher than the service’s recommendation, a characteristic that is common among self-published authors who tend to underprice their content.

The tool is available for all KDP authors to try out by clicking on the button in the “Rights and Pricing” section of their dashboards, and Amazon has stated that the beta period is open to all users in an attempt to help them uncover which features authors rely on. Books that are not enrolled in Amazon’s exclusive KDP Select program are still eligible for the service, and more information can be found HERE.

wattpad_ipad
Copyright is a hotly contested issue facing both authors and the publishing industry, as rights holders work to strike a balance between safeguarding content and sharing it across a variety of platforms to reach as many readers as possible. In the era of digital publishing, ebook piracy, and open sharing authoring platforms, some industry response has been to tighten the reins even further to combat the over-inflated perceived threat of content loss.

Wattpad, a site which makes discovery possible through more than 30 million reader memberships, is designed specifically for authors to write and post content, then for readers to share that content with their own followers. But one of the chief questions plaguing the concept often comes from new authors to the site: is it safe?

In response, Wattpad announced this week that it has developed Open Stories, a Creative Commons option that authors can choose to let their work reach as many readers as possible while allowing those readers to be a part of the process.

According to Wattpad’s announcement on this new option, “The biggest question facing new writers today isn’t how to protect their work; it’s how to find a readership for it,” said Cory Doctorow, science fiction author, activist, journalist and blogger. “It makes complete sense that so many Wattpad writers are gravitating toward Creative Commons licenses: by giving others permission to share your writing, you can open doors to new audiences and new creative opportunities.

“Cory Doctorow has shared five stories on Wattpad under CC licenses, including New York Times best-selling novels Homeland and Little Brother. Today, to coincide with the roll out of CC 4.0, he will share his first novel, Down and Out in the Magic Kingdom, on Wattpad.

Creative Commons is gaining more and more ground as content owners begin to more fully understand the changes that have taken place, largely due to technology and advances in the internet and social media. The original system of licensing permissions to read and share content don’t lend themselves well to the digital publishing age, and CC is working to address the necessary protections while still allowing the freedom of discovery.

“From day one Wattpad has been about self-expression and creativity. With the integration of CC 4.0 creators from around the world will be able to search millions of stories on Wattpad and use them for their own artistic pursuits,” said Co-founder and CEO of Wattpad Allen Lau. “Licensing creative works under CC 4.0 makes total sense in today’s remixing culture.”

Author Earnings
In what is perhaps the single most telling example of why the traditional publishing fails to address the needs of authors, The Guardian posted an interview with Phillip Jones, editor of the Bookseller, and Nicola Solomon, general secretary of the UK’s Society of Authors. While the Bookseller is a publishing industry news source and the Society has recently spoken out about the poor contract terms that traditionally published authors are forced to accept, both representatives made some laughable remarks about both self-publishing and the Author Earnings reports in particular.

According to the most recent report, self-published titles make up more than one-fourth of the books published on Kindle, yet indie authors make 40% of the royalties, which is more than the Big Five publishers receive combined. Despite having fewer books published, these authors earn more.

But Jones dismissed the AE report on the grounds that (wait for it), we don’t really know who this “Data Guy” is who claims to work with author Hugh Howey on compiling the numbers.

Yes, Jones is willing to overlook the multitude of pie charts and bar graphs that are included in every single AE report, and instead would prefer to shed a disparaging light on the source of the mathematical equations. Jones actually implied that “Data Guy” may be just an Amazon employee whose mission is to spread bad information about traditional publishing.

“The fact that we don’t know who this ‘Data Guy’ is or where he’s come from suggest that we should take the Author Earnings report with a large pinch of salt,” Jones said. “I think of it more as part of Amazon’s PR effort, rather than an objective overview of the digital marketplace.”

Of course, never missing an opportunity to bad-mouth Amazon, Jones continued by saying that Amazon holds all of the sales data and refuses to share it, so how can anyone possibly make a sound decision? As though the traditional publishers don’t know how many books they’ve sold and also aren’t sharing that information?

Solomon was slightly more forgiving as she applauded Howey’s efforts to arm authors with solid data and knowledge, but even she went on to state that publishers earn a significant portion of their revenue from print sales, and Author Earnings only takes into account ebook sales. This is true because most indie authors will earn more from their ebook sales than print.

What Jones and Solomon didn’t grasp is that this isn’t about publisher revenue, it’s about how much of that revenue trickles down to the authors. While Big Five print titles, for example, may sell more than the average indie author’s work, a self-published author has to sell far fewer copies than a traditionally published author to earn the same amount of income. Solomon did graciously point out that publishers’ royalty terms barely produce a living wage for authors, and that change needs to happen before traditional publishing becomes obsolete. What the industry hopefully will recognize is that change doesn’t have to happen as long as authors are kept ignorant of the possibilities for better royalties and equal sales, a fact that AE reports are trying to remedy.

Illustrated-Avatar-for-Web-Page

Amazon has officially launched Kindle Unlimited, a US based service that has 600,000 eBooks and audiobooks available at $9.99 per month. The Seattle based e-commerce giant is now competing against companies such as Oyster and Scribd, which have friendly terms for self-published authors. Is Kindle Unlimited viable for indie authors and is it worth it to make your titles available?

In order to be enrolled in Kindle Unlimited, indie authors must opt into the Kindle Direct Publishing Select program. This allows you title 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 your eBook past the 10% mark, you 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. They inflated the pool an additional $800,000, bringing the total allocated funds to $2.9 million. The royalty payments actually pay up to 70% of your list price if eventually someone from Japan, Brazil, India, or Mexico read your book.

In order to enroll in Kindle Unlimited you have to exclusively publish your title with Amazon for 90 days. This means, if you also have your book listed on Nook Press, Kobo Writing Life or Smashwords, you have to remove it or Amazon will ban your book. Unlimited basically forces authors to exclusively publish with Amazon and forgo earnings from alternative sources.

According to many reports Amazon earns $5.25 billion dollars from current annual book sales. This results in them controlling 65% of the US eBook market, with only Apple, Barnes and Noble and Google having a minority share.  Amazon has publically stated many times that self-published books make up 25% of the top 100 list.

Unlimited is only being launched in the US right now and this results in a limited audience to offset an author’s ability to earn revenue from international sales. Being able to sell your book on a worldwide stage, can equate to big bucks.  Barnes and Noble makes their self-published titles available in many countries in Europe and Kobo has the largest footprint of all.  Smashwords also distributes titles to many markets, piggybacking a bunch of companies. Sadly, compared to Amazon, they do not earn as much as Amazon generates with kindle book sales.

Many industry experts are very much against the Kindle Unlimited program, saying it hurts indie authors. Mark Coker, CEO of Smashwords had this say – “For all of Amazon’s good deeds, it does not mean we indies should kiss their feet unconditionally. Their business methods are not beyond reproach. We should encourage a healthy debate about Amazon’s practices and how they can do better for authors and readers. I can admire Amazon yet still oppose exclusivity. We should also recognize when Amazon’s business interests don’t align with author interests.”

Joel Becker, chief executive of the Australian Booksellers Association stated ”I am concerned about author royalties. Authors are already getting a smaller cut when it comes to eBooks and when you look at the music subscription services, it is the music companies who are making money and the artists who are getting less.”

Is Unlimited good for indie authors? I would say yes. Amazon has not signed any of the big publishing companies, so that means you aren’t competing against the James Pattersons or Neil Gaimons of the world. Instead they are only doing business with Algonquin, Bloomsbury, Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, Open Road, Scholastic and Workman. Amazon intends on paying them a wholesale rate for each title opened and read, so indies might actually make more money.

Unlimited
Amazon’s Kindle Unlimited, the ebook and audiobook subscription service that lets members pay a flat monthly fee for unlimited access to its catalog, went live today, offering users a thirty day free trial and the option to pay $9.99 a month for the service. According to a press release issued by Amazon, the service is compatible with both Kindle reading devices and tablets, as well as through the Kindle reading app on other popular brands of mobile devices.

“With Kindle Unlimited, you won’t have to think twice before you try a new author or genre—you can just start reading and listening,” said Russ Grandinetti, Senior Vice President, Kindle. “In addition to offering over 600,000 eBooks, Kindle Unlimited is also by far the most cost-effective way to enjoy audiobooks and eBooks together. With thousands of Whispersync for Voice-enabled audiobooks to choose from, you can easily switch between reading and listening to a book, allowing the story to continue even when your eyes are busy. We hope you take advantage of the 30-day free trial and try it for yourself.”

In the most interesting news about the launch, the Unlimited catalog–which features 600,000 ebooks and 2,000 audiobooks–automatically includes self-published works that authors have listed in Amazon’s exclusive program, KDP Select. However, any author who wishes to unenroll from KDP Select to avoid including his titles in Kindle Unlimited may do so immediately, without having to wait for the ninety day period.

Amazon representatives told Good e-Reader this morning: “There are many self-published titles in the catalog. If you have a book enrolled in KDP Select, it will automatically be enrolled in Kindle Unlimited. If you do not want your books in Kindle Unlimited, you have the option to immediately remove your book from KDP Select. To do so, please include the ASIN for your book when you complete this Contact Us form. We will remove your book from KDPS right away and contact you to confirm. You can see our forum post on the announcement for KDP authors here: https://kdp.amazon.com/help?topicId=AA9BSAGNO1YJH.”

Self-published authors will be compensated in much the same way as they are when consumers borrow their books through the Kindle Owners’ Lending Library. When Kindle Unlimited customers read at least ten percent of an indie author’s book through the service, that will count as a “read” for compensation from the KDP Select Global Fund, just as if a non-member had borrowed the title through KOLL.

As an added incentive for membership, readers who join Kindle Unlimited will also be given a free three-month membership to Audible to try out their catalog of over 150,000 audiobooks. Full details on the service and the free trials can be found at amazon.com/KindleUnlimited.


author-earnings-hugh-howey-website
Author Earnings, who has a two-fold mission that encompasses supporting authors of every publishing path, has released a new report, this time looking not only at the data so far up to July 2014, but also mapping out the trends that the data can help identify.

The comprehensive and exhaustingly complete report provides graphs on a variety of factors in publishing, all aimed at determining where the sales are taking place, how the bestseller lists are ranking works, discovering how authors have been compensated for their books, and more.

“It’s too early to distinguish between global trends and seasonal trends, but the percentage of ebook dollars going to indie authors has crept up for two straight quarters. There could be movement in the opposite direction as the Holidays approach. While it should be a jolt to see that indies are earning nearly 40% of the ebook dollars going to authors, we are starting to take this reality for granted. That’s real progress. As it has proven to be in other fields of entertainment, the indie movement in literature is not a blip and not a gold rush. It appears to be here to stay.”

The July 14th data showed that Big Five publishers’ titles accounted for only 16% of the books on Amazon’s bestseller list, while indie authors, small to medium presses, and publishers who’d produced only one book accounted for 83% of the bestsellers combined, across various genres of fiction and non-fiction.

In what is an interesting snapshot of the data that should put to rest any nasty rumors that Amazon is trying to ruin the book industry with its traditional publishing imprints, only one percent of the bestsellers were published by Amazon Publishing. This speaks to the company’s commitment to launch books they believe in while not necessarily pandering to the “push what sells” mentality that has plagued the traditional publishing industry.

The remainder of the complete report is available HERE.

child-tablet-beach

During the e-reader boom period from 2009 until 2013 many people got switched onto digital. Online bookstores did record business and many new entrants came to the market, offering their own self-publishing systems. One of the tools that authors employed to get their book out there was giving it away for free. Whether they made it free for a short period of time or did it from the beginning, people downloaded it in droves. New research is suggesting that giving your eBook away for free might not be effective anymore.

Apple owned iBooks was the focus of a recent case study and the data said that for every one book purchased, 39 were downloaded for free. In prior years the gulf between free and paid was even more pronounced. In 2012 it was at a 91:1 ratio and in 2012 100:1.

The digital book market is certainly not sick — it’s growing robustly. Overall, online book sales were up in 2013 by 3.8% for total sales of $1.3 billion.

Self-Published authors are beginning to realize that the concept of free is declining. It is no longer effective to give it away for free and expect a ravenous flock of readers will devour it. After all, even Microsoft is giving away 300 free eBooks, and they hardly have any downloads.

If free is no longer working, what are the price points that are most effective for sales? The report revealed that $2.99 and $3.99 were a popular price point.

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fifty-shades-of-grey-review
Despite the fact that Fifty Shades of Grey is old news–at least the book, the film doesn’t release until Valentine’s Day next year–and the door to free publishing of adult content has been thrown wide open since EL James’ book took newsstands by storm, critics are still claiming the downfall of human society due to the abundance of explicit content. Interestingly, it seems that only men are having serious issues with the fact that women write and read more adult-themed material in the mainstream.

There are a number of odd characteristics at play with criticism of erotica. First, it’s really nothing new. The fact that title like Grey can be purchased in Walmart are certainly different, but erotic literature has been around and available to those who knew where to find it for literally thousands of years.

What may be more astonishing–and therefore upending–to literary critics is that women are now the top-selling authors by far on a number of book retailers’ sites and self-publishing platforms, including Smashwords and Kobo, largely due to the popularity of romance and erotica. Names like EL James are often found beside Bella Andre, Barbara Freethy, and HM Ward, just to name a few, and these women command many of the highest grossing spots at the moment.

Adding to the confusion for vocal wet blankets is the fact that romance writers and fans can no longer be lumped into the stereotype of the discontented, underappreciated housewife who sits in her modest home and devours these stories as a means of escape. According to an article for Pacific-Standard, Hilary A Hallett revealed that more men than ever are reading erotica, and that 42% of romance fans have at least a bachelor’s degree, which is higher than the average of 30% of women nationally who hold the college degree.

However, Hallett points out that despite the income potential of the fans and the bestseller status of the female writers of the genre, it continues to be an overwhelmingly male population of critics who callously dismiss the genre and its readers. And with the income potential of both female authors and self-published authors on the rise, it’s no wonder that mainstays of the industry are looking for ways to dismiss and discredit the popularity of a model which they don’t understand and cannot fathom appreciating.

ALCS-survey-image
Thanks largely to Hugh Howey’s recent post about the need for organizations that truly work on behalf of authors rather than their own self-interests, serious discussion has opened up about the need for a better structure that works to speak up for writers and their work. Organizations like the Author’s Guild have recently been questioned as their interests lie in furthering the traditional publishing industry, rather than the acceptance of all writers.

But one organization in the UK, the Society of Authors, has stated in an interview with its head Nicola Solomon that the validity of the traditional publishers is questionable and goes so far as to state the traditional publishing as a whole is no longer the most viable option for authors. As Solomon said in an article in The Guardian, current contract terms are often unfair and it is no longer the most sustainable model.

The UK has long experienced a greater level of transparency in terms of actual sales figures than the US market, and several authors have come forward to outline exactly what they’ve earned from the sales of their books. In the US, authors are contractually barred from discussing their sales, and even indie authors can violate the terms of service for ebook retailers’ platforms if they speak out about their earnings.

As UK authors aren’t legally bound to stay quiet, several authors told The Guardian how small their actual book earnings were under the traditional publishing model, which led Solomon to make the point that the traditional industry is not working in authors’ best interests. Authors’ income is actually decreasing, while publishers continue to post high revenues.

But the most telling point in the article is this one:

“Self-publishing, meanwhile, is becoming an increasingly attractive option for writers, according to the [ALCS] survey, which found that just over 25% of writers had published something themselves. Writers were investing a mean of £2,470 in publishing their own work, with the median investment at £500, and typically recouping their investment plus 40%. Eighty-six per cent of those who had self-published said they would do so again.”

Unfortunately, there are still a number of organizations who loudly further the belief that self-publishing is neither accepted nor viable, and therefore caution authors away from the income potential of indie authorship. Data from the AuthorEarnings.com reports and the ALCS survey will hopefully help authors understand that there are many options open to them, and that all of them have their merits.