Archive for Indie Author News
As more and more holiday shoppers scramble to finish up their holiday shopping, publishers and book retailers have taken notice and are offering considerable discounts on their titles. While it might be hard to envision having your mom “unwrap” an ebook for Christmas, more and more consumers are turning to the portability associated with long distance gift giving and turning to virtual shopping; and according to a number of social media posts about ebook purchasing, holiday gift givers are quite likely to purchase an ebook for themselves to read while traveling or while visiting relatives.
A post by Jeremy Greenfield for Digital Book World actually highlighted some of the top-name bestselling books that are currently offered for around the cost of a typical high-end coffee concoction. Greenfield goes on to indicate that traditionally published ebooks are experiencing and all-time low for average cost:
“As a result, the average price of a best-selling ebook this week is $5.27, a new all-time low. The previous low was in early September: $5.41.”
One point he makes in his post is that we are becoming dangerously close to severely undervaluing ebooks in the minds of consumers. While this may certainly be just another holiday discount, if consumers don’t associate ebooks with gift giving, they may not make the connection that these prices are holiday incentives. Instead, consumers can come to expect that an ebook will cost only a couple of dollars, regardless of the quality or the name behind the writing.
Thea Atkinson, author of numerous titles including One Insular Tahiti and the Witches of Etlantium series, said, “A few times, I’ve shifted Water Witch down to .99 to see if I could get more eyes at Barnes and Noble, Apple, and Amazon. At Barnes and Noble it seems to matter a small bit, but Amazon almost seems to decrease compared to when it’s at 2.99…sometimes I think the higher price gets it more visibility, not that folks are willing to pay more or look for a higher price, but equating price with quality.”
Story posting social media site Wattpad has garnered a tremendous following in a short amount of time for its notably unique offers for both authors and publishers. Apart from the ability for writers to post excerpts for readers to enjoy and comment on–a feedback process that Wattpad staunchly guards from trolling–the platform has worked with a number of different partnerships to provide opportunities for its members to take their writing further.
The world’s leading romance publisher Harlequin allowed users to participate in its annual contest, So You Think You Can Write, by submitting their work via the platform. The contest, which received more than six hundred entries, was declared final today with the announcement of Tanya Wright as this year’s winner.
This year’s contest included a New Adult category, which was where Wattpad came in. Entrants submitted their work via the open platform, allowing them to receive vital feedback from the 20 million registered users of the site.
“The New Adult contest on Wattpad was a huge success with more than 60,000 people voting for their favorite story,” said Ashleigh Gardner, Head of Content, Publishing at Wattpad, in a press release. “Harlequin editors were spoiled for choice and ended up selecting six amazing Wattpad stories to publish from the entries on Wattpad, more than originally planned.”
“The winners, a diverse group from five different countries and four continents, are Jo Watson of Johannesburg, South Africa for Burning Moon; Amber Lindley of the United Kingdom for Confident Women; Sarah White of California, USA for Rookie in Love; Melinda Di Lorenzo of British Columbia, Canada for Promises Made, Promises Broken; Claire Chilton of York, England for Hunted Hearts and Avril Tremayne of Sydney, Australia for Signed, Sealed, Delivered. Ms. Tremayne, in a remarkable display of talent, was also a finalist in Harlequin’s So You Think You Can Write contest. The stories are scheduled to be published by Harlequin in two New Adult ebook box sets in May and June 2014.”
Participants in the annual contest receive feedback, guidance, and insider tips from some of the top names in the romance industry. The contest will be staged again next year, with details coming prior to the September launch.
Some surprising information from Nielsen Book Scan has showed that, not only has the young adult genre grown by 24% in the last year, but that 80% of the market for young adult fiction is actually made up of adult readers. So while the publishing industry slowly starts to take notice of that trend, what does that mean for indie authors? Why are adults suddenly so interested in teen fiction?
“Young adult novels let me experience those earth-shattering firsts all over again,” explained Gena Showalter, author of the Alice in Zombieland series, to Good e-Reader.com. “First kiss, first heartbreak, first love. And now that I’m older and wiser (kind of), I get to dig into the lives of these fictional characters and root for them to make better choices than I did. Sometimes they do, sometimes they don’t, but at the end of the day, there’s still hope for a happily ever after.”
Author Tim Miller, whose book Blood Slayer features a vampire-killing autistic teen, explained: “I’ve read some Harry Potter and loved all the Hunger Games. I think a big part of it is, when I was a youth, most ‘young adult’ books were things like Goosebumps and Hardy Boys. By the time I was 12 or 13, I was reading Stephen King and Clive Barker because the stuff that was out for kids my age at the time just was too light. Not to mention, kids today seem much more insightful than when I was a kid. Kids now have grown up knowing war and recession, as well as broken families and broken homes. So as a result, young adult authors have had to write things more relevant to the kids of today. A byproduct of that is the same stories appeal to adults as well. Books like Hunger Games have a lot of good messages and appeal to both adults and kids. Blood Slayer is intended to inspire and uplift special needs kids and their parents, but anyone who reads it will hopefully get the message that kids with special needs are indeed special in some very positive ways.”
Whatever the reasons for the shift in the industry, publishers and authors alike need to take notice. With ever-increasing sales in the genre, audiences are not mindlessly buying anything with a vampire anymore. Today’s YA readers, regardless of their actual age, are in tune with the dynamics in a series, are apt to compare one book to another, and are fully expecting a movie release of their favorite books. And as readers come to expect an evolving and complicated plot, the industry needs to recognize that fact and be ready with compelling reads that speak to a range of readers.
A new app, Heyday, that joins a growing list of mobile apps that help users keep track of their days in a journal format. Heyday, along with apps like Saga, use the user’s stored photos, status updates, physical locations, and more, to create a journal of that person’s daily life.
But where this app can really come in handy is for authors who need a record of their daily activity, for a variety of reasons. From memoir writers to people who find that inspiration strikes at the oddest times, journaling–specifically via convenient apps–can help authors keep track of their writing.
Part of what has made Heyday (not to be confused with the virtual farming game, Hay Day) so appealing is its low-battery drain, as it only records the user’s actual stops, not their travels along the way. This can be especially useful for authors who brainstorm in a coffee shop, for example, or during a long commute. Also, the app basically works on its own, not requiring input from the user, although the writer can add text to the events that the app records.
While Heyday does require access to the user’s location and camera roll, it claims to not post anything to the user’s social media, unlike apps that make this type of data known across registered social media accounts. The app takes time stamped images and creates a looping journal out of them, allowing the user to add notes and text.
Organizational apps like this are becoming widely popular among writers, as many authors are still members of the daily work force and often grab time to write or plot at inopportune times. Of course, with busy schedules outside of work, technology is still helping authors organize and stay on their writing targets.
Every time Amazon branches out into a new territory, concerned booksellers, publishers, and industry watchers voice their opinions on how the online retail giant is going to impact books in the area. This should be nothing new to locals, but with last month’s launch of Amazon Australia, the same criticisms that have been thrown about for several years resurfaced.
Certainly, booksellers in any region–an Amazon host or not–should have reason for concern. Amazon has the size to undersell, the ability to provide incentives like free shipping, and now drones for immediate delivery, if the reports can ever come to fruition.
So what can the next Amazon market do to prepare, instead of waiting for customers to support the retailer and sitting idly in shock at the lost revenue and lost power over the publishing industry?
First, independent booksellers can begin now with a push to digitize and encourage web-based sales from their existing customers. Too many booksellers wait until the rest of the business has gone to e-commerce, then scramble to create a blog and a website; by the time they have adapted, consumers have already grown accustomed to clicking on their Amazon apps.
Also, one feature that is driving traffic to Amazon in nearly every market is self-publishing. When authors who cannot find support from local or chain bookstores are able to sell their content through Amazon, of course they’re going to drive traffic to the retailer. Independent and chain bookstores alike have got to do more to embrace self-published authors if they want to keep these consumers.
Finally, if the industry would stop taking an Amazon-against-the-world stance to book publishing and selling, more cooperative efforts could happen, which will benefit everyone from the publishers down to the average reader. Instead of dividing into two camps, if small retailers would seek out ways to benefit from Amazon’s global advancement, more book awareness could happen, resulting in more book sales.
With the holiday shopping weekend still in full swing in the US, two exciting opportunities still await readers. Today marks the local-business oriented Small Business Saturday across the country, when shoppers who didn’t complete their discount buying during yesterday’s Black Friday sales are reminded to support their locally-owned independent shops. This year, that show of support is especially aimed at independent (non-retail chain) bookstores, many of whom are feeling the pinch of trying to compete with online retailers throughout the year, not just at the holidays.
A movement started by author Sherman Alexie and supported by IndieBound.org may surprise any fans of books who venture into bookstores today. Don’t be surprised if James Patterson rings up your purchases, or Mary Anne Kempher points to a title you’re looking for. Hundreds of authors have signed up to lend their support, not in terms of publicity or book signings, but just by volunteering on what will hopefully prove to be a profitable day for these small business owners.
For those shoppers who plan to spend today bundled up inside and taking advantage of perks like discounts and free shipping on different retail websites, don’t forget to take a look at the Wordplay Shakespeare site, as the publisher of side-by-side translations of some of Shakespeare’s best loved titles will be gifting copies of the enhanced ebook for Macbeth in a random drawing to new subscribers to the newsletter. The sign-ups can be found HERE.
Just in time for the holidays, GalleyCat has released its weekly bestseller list of self-published titles, compiled from sales data from Amazon, Barnes and Noble, and Smashwords. The list, which crosses a variety of genres, includes separate sales data from the three major ebook distributors, but does not include specific sales figures.
For romance fans, the top three titles are Trouble by Samantha Towle (#1), A Little Christmas Romance by HM Ward (#2), and Jake Undone by Penelope Ward (#3). Two titles by Caisey Quinn, both from the Keep Me Still series, came in at number five (Hold Us Close) and number seven (Keep Me Still). Not surprisingly given the sheer volume of content that fans of the genre consume, numbers eight and ten on the self-published bestseller list from Amazon were also romance titles, Christmas on Main Street by E. Ayers and Western Kisses by Carré White.
Two thriller titles, The Atlantis Gene: A Thriller (The Origin Mystery, Book 1) by A.G. Riddle and 9 Killer Thrillers by Russell Blake, finished the top ten on Amazon in the sixth and ninth spots, respectively.
According to GalleyCat’s research, the following titles earned the top ten spots on Smashwords for the past week:
1. Principles for Written English, Workbook 1 by Maggie Sokolik
2. Fifty Ways to Practice Writing: Tips for ESL/EFL Students by Dorothy Zemach
3. Unattainable by Madeline Sheehan
4. The Great Convergence byJoseph Lallo
5. The Battle of Verril by Joseph Lallo
6. Why Do Dramas Do That? Part 1by Dimension Four
7. Nine Goblins by T Kingfisher
8. Butterflies in Honey (Growing Pains #3) by K.F. Breene
9. Enhancing Performance: Mental Training for Coaches, Athletes, and Parents by Dan Yarmey
10. Attainment (Book 3.5 in The Temptation Series) by K.M. Golland
A growing number of self-published authors are receiving ominous emails from ebook distributor Amazon, warning them that their books are about to be removed from the website if action isn’t taken immediately. The warning–which some authors claim they did not actually receive before their titles were removed from sale–pertains to authors who’ve used titles of other books in the keyword searches for their titles.
Authors who have attempted to garner more searchability for their books have resorted to including titles like “Fifty Shades of Grey” or “Gone Girl” in the keywords for their books, hoping that potential readers stumble across their book listings. This practice is also in place by the traditional publishing industry, and apparently the ruling applies to those titles as well. Warnings to traditionally published authors have even been posted on message boards, encouraging them to contact their publishers as these authors do not upload their own titles or establish their keywords.
Interestingly, comments from authors on sites like The Passive Voice and Author Marketing Experts have demonstrated that self-published authors, at least ones who see themselves as professionals, are siding with Amazon on this rule, with many pointing out that it is not a new rule, and it is also bad business practice to piggyback one’s work off the marketing clout of another author, especially without permission.
What is not yet clear is whether or not an author can list his own title in the keyword search for a sequel, for example. I do know from personal experience, having received this warning email from Amazon myself, that if authors can justify the reason for including a title as a keyword, Amazon will review it and make its decision. One of the keywords for one of my own young adult novels contains the title of a very well-known literary classic, and I pointed out my justification for this inclusion to Amazon in a reply email. The result was that Amazon sided with me and allowed the keyword to stay in place.
While this rule is not new, the greater crackdown on authors abusing it may very well stem from Amazon’s efforts to ensure that books are matched appropriately throughout their site by keyword. This move may help avoid more fiascoes like the recent erotica-in-the-children’s-section issue, in which books were wrongfully put in front of young readers based on erroneous metadata and keywords.
Along with the incredibly wide variety of devices that ebook distribution platform Smashwords’ customers can choose from is a new offering, Dropbox. By selecting the “Send to Dropbox” feature when they buy ebooks, readers can access their ebooks on any compatible device, including iPad and most smartphones.
Interestingly, this new feature will be compatible with ebooks that consumers have already purchased and stored in their libraries, making the virtual storage application a cloud-based access-anywhere portable library. Readers simply have to click the Send to Dropbox button that will appear next to their titles.
According to a blog post on the announcement by CEO and founder Mark Coker, “Each time you purchase an ebook at Smashwords, we’ll automatically transfer up to three file formats – epub, mobi and PDF – to your Dropbox account. File format availability is determined by the author or publisher. You’ll find your files in Dropbox’s “Apps/Smashwords” folder. You can transfer previously purchased books to Dropbox by clicking the Send to Dropbox button in your Smashwords Library.”
Crowdfunding has become a widely popular method for startups to secure the funding they need to launch their conceptual services or products while generating much-needed buzz about their pending product. A small number of diverse platforms have begun bringing the same support structure to books, including Pubslush, whose founder Amanda Barbara spoke to Good e-Reader about the growing popularity of readers being invested in a book from the beginning.
“What makes us so very different from some of the other crowdfunding platforms out there is not just that we’re ‘books only’ and that we’re trying to create a community where authors, readers, publishers, and industry professionals interact, but the best thing about us is that we offer small funding, letting authors set a minimum and a maximum goal. Every little bit helps an author, but about 95% of our authors are going to publish no matter what. It enables them to test the market pre-publication and create a buzz.”
One feature that instantly sets Pubslush apart from the typical crowdfunding model is the buy button: “Once an author has been successful and the campaign is over, on a lot of other crowdfunding sites the person never comes back. They receive their money and they walk out the door. With Pubslush, however, we keep the book live on our site and readers can still comment and we switch the support button to a buy button, and we drive traffic over to Amazon when they book is available for sale. It creates a community and lets our authors continue to have a presence on Pubslush.”
Pubslush goes on to support the authors once the book is live, assisting with all-important marketing and promotion, keeping readers engaged through book interaction, personalization and education, and more. And unlike some crowdfunding sites, Pubslush has one of the lowest percentages among the similar platforms in terms of what portion of donations go to keeping the site running. While other platforms like Kickstarter and IndieGoGo might have a much larger reach, Pubslush steers itself towards readers who want to specifically support a book instead of letting an author’s campaign get lost among the various offerings.
“Crowdfunding is all about driving traffic to your book,” continued Barbara, “so whether you’re one of 200,000 projects going on at Kickstarter or you’re on Pubslush, you’re going to be responsible for raising your own funds. Working with a company like us lets you have dedicated followers in place.”
The site recently launched two new versions of the process, Pubslush Pro and Pubslush Custom, along with a new blog which went live this week.
“Readers do enjoy being a part of the discovery process, they like that they were able to fund a book and bring it to life. If the author is really diligent about keeping the reader a part of the process, you see the excitement.”
Consumer reaction in the US to the complete gluttony of shopping following Thanksgiving is often mixed. With some cities seeing shoppers literally camping out on the sidewalks in order to be there when the doors open on Black Friday, other parties take a more reserved stance, opting to shop online to take advantage of the steep discounts, and still others boycotting the shopping frenzy altogether. A movement to encourage shoppers to stay home on Thanksgiving Day in order to send a message to retailers about requiring their employees to work on a traditionally family-oriented holiday has also gained a lot of ground.
In recent years, the Saturday after Thanksgiving has been dubbed “Small Business Saturday,” a PR campaign intended to help consumers remember to support the locally owned businesses in their communities. This year, that concept has been extended to independent bookshops, due in large part to the efforts of author Sherman Alexie.
Alexie, the author of the bestselling and award-winning Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian wrote an open letter to authors through the American Booksellers Association, encouraging authors of any type to support bookstores by pitching in on what is traditionally the busiest shopping weekend of the year.
“I was a bookseller-for-a-day at Seattle’s Queen Anne Book Company when it reopened this past April,” explained Alexie. “Janis Segress, one of the new co-owners, came up with this brilliant idea. What could be better than spending a day hanging out in your favorite hometown indie, hand- selling books you love to people who will love them too and signing a stack of your own? Why not give it a try? Let’s call it Indies First.”
Partly an effort to help the shop owners with extra manpower and partly to draw consumers to the stores to meet authors they’ve read, Indies First has grown to stores around the country. Authors like Alexie and James Patterson will be in independent bookstores, ringing up customers, gift-wrapping books, and more. Of course, it also stands to be a win for authors whose sales have been shown to increase while they are on location.
“This is a great way to fight for independents—one that will actually help them. It’ll help you as well; the Indies I’ve talked to have told me that last year Small Business Saturday was one of their biggest days of the year, in some cases the biggest after the Saturday before Christmas—and that means your books will get a huge boost, wherever you choose to be.”
Click HERE for a complete list of authors and bookshops who will be participating in Indies First.
Self-publishing and distribution platform Smashwords released the news that Bowker has declared the site to be the top producer of ebooks in 2012, and the second largest producer of self-published titles following CreateSpace. The data, based on Bowker’s records of ISBN registrations, was part of its larger analysis of the year’s titles.
These numbers, according to Bowker’s data collection, are a 59% increase over the previous year and over 400% increase over 2010. As more and more writers turn to self-publishing, they’re going with a platform that can provide a wide variety of distribution channels and the opportunity for low-cost ebook gifting and promotion.
According to Mark Coker, founder and CEO of Smashwords, in a blog post on the news: “Although I’m pleased to see Smashwords come in at number one, I’m even more excited about what Bowker’s overall data says about the rise of self-publishing. Indie authors are taking publishing matters into their own hands. The three most essential requirements of professional publishing – the printing press, the access to retail distribution, and how-to knowledge of professional publishing best practices – are now freely available to all indie authors. Smashwords is committed to providing writers these tools.
“Any writer, anywhere in the world, now has the freedom to publish without a publisher, and can do so at little to no cost. As indie ebook authors, these writers can enjoy faster time to market, greater creative control, closer relationships with readers, greater price-competitiveness, better marketing and promotion tools, and royalty rates four to five times higher than they’d get from traditional publishers.
“The day will come when more writers aspire to indie publish rather than traditionally publish. Is the industry ready?”
Whether or not the industry is ready may still remain to be seen, but with publishers like Hachette reporting record ebook sales even in 2013, it’s a clear sign that readers are responding to digital publishing, regardless of where it originated.
CreateSpace, the print-on-demand self-publishing platform owned by Amazon, announced two exciting new features for authors today, both of which stand to give indie authors a more professional experience.
The first announcement is the introduction of matte laminate covers as an option to choose from for their books. While not typically a deal breaker for most authors, until now CreateSpace covers were only offered as a glossy, plasticized cover. The new covers will allow authors not only a choice, but a more equal footing in print sales, especially for those authors who order books for signings or who have made arrangements for their books to be sold in brick-and-mortar bookstores.
Kimmie Easley, author of Souls Set Free and the upcoming title Gutter Princess (February, 2014), explained to Good e-Reader about the importance of a professional touch when it comes to covers. “I think a professional cover is extremely important to both the author and the reader. It sets a book apart, and I know it’s what I look for. A bad cover can completely turn me off from reading a book. As a reader, I love to go through bookstores and feel the covers. It’s not just the image or artwork, which is still important, but it’s also the tactile experience of the book. I’m drawn to books that feel different, and I will jump at the chance to have a cover like that as an author.”
There is no additional charge for choosing the matte cover, and authors whose books are already available through CreateSpace can switch to matte without repeating the upload process or having their books become temporarily unavailable.
Also, CreateSpace announced at the same time that its Expanded Distribution offer, which typically costs $25.00, is now free. This option helps authors make their books available to physical bookstores and libraries by being included in the catalog. While not a guarantee that these locations will stock an author’s titles, it does make the process far easier for those physical stores.