Archive for Indie Author News
A new publishing industry term was born at this year’s Digital Book World event, and it quickly spread to become the standard. Hybrid authors were a focal point of the discussions, meaning authors who in some way were both traditionally published and self-published. The method to how they came to be working in both worlds–whether they were self-published and then picked up by the traditional industry, or were traditionally published and then began to experiment with self-publishing–was not important. Hybrid was the new designation for an author who experienced both sides of publishing.
Yesterday, tech entrepreneur and marketing expert Guy Kawasaki and host Createspace presented a live webinar for self-published authors on how to leverage social media in genuine, effective ways to promote their work. The recorded webinar will be available soon from CreateSpace’s resources page, which can be found HERE.
Kawasaki used an important term in his presentation, one that has not gotten the traction it deserves and was actually used in the webinar with little attention or fanfare: artisanal publishing.
In the presentation, he used the term to simply refer to a publishing process by which an author produces books on a smaller scale. It could be used to refer to self-publishing, indie publishing, or smaller press publishing, but the word itself speaks volumes about the stigma that exists even today towards books that did not go through the traditional vetting process.
In much the same way as artisan breads and hand-crafted pieces of art are highly-valued for their limited availability and their attention to detail, artisanal publishing stands to be recognized in the same light. If true writing craftsmen produce a superior book that is untainted by industrial standards and requires a mastery of their craft, then the artisans’ books can also become as highly-valued as similar artisan products in the minds of consumers and the industry.
GoodEReader posted a number of articles this week that inspected the current climate of self-publishing and exposed a lot of the key concerns with the publishing industry as a whole. But for authors who choose to adopt the mindset that they are putting the time, effort, and sweat equity into their work that makes it worthy of being called an artisan product, the stigma will fall away and the true value of artisanal publishing will be appreciated by the larger community.
Full disclosure: Per yesterday’s comments, I wish to state that I am a self-published author and I have two college degrees, including a graduate writing fellowship through the National Writing Project. There will be typos, but they aren’t because I don’t know better.
Yesterday, GoodEReader posted a viewpoint on the damage that self-published authors allegedly do to the state of literature, presumably just by existing. They apparently clog the virtual bookshelves of every online retailer with their mindless paranormal crap and their poorly edited spew. They cheapen the price of ebooks with their low-cost titles (“books” would be too generous a word to use here, according to some sources), driving the genuine, educated, hard-working authors who have been vetted by the mainstream publishing industry into obscurity.
I’m going to have call you on that one.
Before the debate about right-to-publish goes one word further, I have a question. The year that John Steinbeck published his Nobel prize-winning book, The Grapes of Wrath, which happens to be celebrating its 75th anniversary this year with much fanfare from Penguin, what other books did the publisher reject at that time? Which titles did Viking (Penguin) ultimately refuse to publish due to shifts in the market or waning interest from focus groups in books about Depression-era suffering and the plight of the Okies? What books got sent lovely rejection form letters because the market was already saturated with books by people who were foolish and presumptuous enough to think they had written the Great American Novel?
I’ll never know, will I? Those books weren’t published. And since the digital revolution hadn’t happened, the manuscripts themselves were tossed in a trash bin or used to start a fire in some starving author’s wood stove.
If self-publishing had existed in its current form, there would at least be a chance that I would get to read those books, books that have been lost forever. But someone sitting in a comfy office, probably behind an antique mahogany desk, got to make the decision that I don’t have the right to read those books. Those books weren’t worthy. Sadly, I never got to decide that for myself.
And yes, as the writer of yesterday’s article pointed out, it has become very difficult to decide which books to invest my time and my money on. But that simply means that authors have their work cut out for them in terms of making sure the work is spectacular and making themselves accessible to their reading audience.
Hugh Howey, Eden Baylee, Bella Andre, Rachel Thompson, Chuck Wendig, Cory Doctorow…I could go on, but I’ll spare you. Those authors are not only writing great stories and publishing them on their own terms, they are connecting with readers in ways that authors never did before. They are writing incredible content because they know their readers on a first-name basis and they know what their readers want. Try writing a letter to Dan Brown and see what kind of response you get. Try telling Nicholas Sparks you’d like to see more books featuring his side characters and see if he jumps out of bed to write a novella about some character who appears on page twelve then disappears forever.
And as for the platforms that are somehow to blame for the current state of puke making its way to the shelves, ask the authors and the readers if a gate keeper should decide what I get to read. Hollywood determines which films I get to watch and Walmart somehow decides which clothing will be popular next fall, whether I like it or not. The books are mine. I will ultimately decide what I read, and thanks to self-publishing, I will never run out of books. Some of them will be utter garbage that weren’t worth the file space on my iPad, and others will be so powerful that I keep them stored in my phone so I can read them even while standing in line in the grocery store. I will decide what I read, not a corporate structure based on market analysis and focus groups of young adults aged twelve to seventeen.
Thanks to self-published authors, I will no longer be told that this is the correct book for me. I will no longer be told that vampires are O.U.T.-out. I will not be told that a literary fiction title written by an author in Nigeria just “doesn’t resonate with US readers.” I will read the books I want to read, and I only have the self-publishing revolution to thank for it.
While the digital publishing revolution has been a boon for both readers and writers, one inherent flaw is the “anyone can do it” mentality that has driven some people to haphazardly pursue publishing. With so many ebook titles filling the virtual bookstore shelves, how can authors and readers connect with quality titles?
Indie Reader has been supporting the work of self-published authors since 2007, providing an outlet for reviews and discoverability for quality books. Now, the site will be working with review aggregator iDreamBooks to enhance the ability to search for books under a rating system similar to those of movies and music.
“A lot has been written recently about the difficulty of finding an authentic and trustworthy rating system for books,” said Rahul Simha, one of iDreamBooks’ founders, in a press release. “Like the movie reviews at Rotten Tomatoes, iDreamBooks’ ratings system can’t be gamed. It’s a great tool and we’ve tried to create something similar and useful.”
According to Amy Edelman, president of Indie Reader, self-published authors face a two-fold dilemma for book reviews and discovery. First, book reviews are so easy to manipulate that even the readers are forced to question their legitimacy. Second, most recognized and respected book review sites turn away self-published titles.
“The problem that we have is that reviewers and traditional media don’t review self-published books,” she explained in an interview with GoodEReader about the partnership. “Most self-published books still carry that stigma, so they don’t get reviewed.”
iDreamBooks lists a synopsis of each book on its site, along with a percentage rating of positive and negative reviews. All of the books are reviewed by the professional staff reviewers, but also by individual readers who wish to share their opinions. This data allows users to sort the books by number of positive and professional reviews. Under this partnership, Indie Reader will supply the reviews of self-published titles that are submitted to its site; Indie Reader joins outlets such as The New York Times and NPR in providing reviews to iDreamBooks.
Edelman explained that there are a number of quality outlets, such as Dear Author, Kirkus, and Compusion Reads, that are filling a need in the self-publishing industry for reliable, unbiased reviews, but that more efforts at discovery are needed.
“By branding a book as an indie book in terms of that being a good thing, we’re creating interest in a whole new segment of books. People are missing an opportunity and I don’t see why.”
This year’s Amazon Breakthrough Novel Awards were a little different than in years’ past. The annual contest began as a small event, but quickly grew to include a larger field of entries and two distinct categories, one for fiction and one for young adult fiction. Previously, a winner was announced in both of those categories, with a publishing contract and advance awarded to each.
For 2013, however, the contest grew exponentially to include separate categories for different genres, essentially for each of the distinct imprints that Amazon Publishing has under its umbrella. For this year’s sixth annual staging of the event, one overall winner would still be named, but the various categories each had a winner from those genres.
The winner, Rysa Walker, was selected from the final round of the competition by Amazon readers, who chose her young adult book Timebound as the grand prize winner. For that honor, Walker will receive a $50,000 advance and have her title published by Amazon Publishing’s Skyscape imprint, a division of its children’s publishing wing.
“Rysa’s novel is one of those up-til-dawn reads that you just can’t put down, so it’s no surprise Amazon customers gave her this award,” said Daphne Durham, Editor-in-Chief, Amazon Publishing, in a press release about the winners of this year’s competition. “We are looking forward to sharing all of the 2013 ABNA winners’ books with readers this fall.”
The other winners had submitted their titles to categories included in the competition. Those winners include Ken Moraff (General Fiction, It Happened in Wisconsin), Jo Chumas (Mystery/Thriller, The Hidden), Evelyn Pryce (Romance, A Man Above Reproach) and J. Lincoln Fenn (Science Fiction/Fantasy/Horror, POE). The authors each received publishing contracts from Amazon Publishing with a $15,000 advance.
All five winners’ titles will be released this fall in print and Kindle edition, and are available now for pre-order.
the digital reading revolution opened up readers’ eyes to the potential for screen reading, authors may have believed they were limited to self-publishing their work via a dedicated e-reader platform, at least in the early days of this current climate of digital publishing, in actuality, publishing has taken on a whole new meaning and there are unique copyright issues that go along with it.
Many authors may be unsure of what their rights are, especially when other forms of digital publishing like blogging or posting to social media are concerned. Christopher Kenneally of the Copyright Clearance Center spoke to GoodEReader this week about some of the considerations that authors need to understand before publishing or posting their work anywhere.
“We hear about copyright all the time and frankly, and from time to time, copyright gets a bad name. But copyright is about individual creators and the whole creative economy, and there are a lot of people and a lot of people’s jobs tied up in copyright. One of our greatest exports in this country is intellectual property. There’s a need for the copyright holders to be able to retain rights to their work and to be able to monetize those rights.
“At the same time, copyright as it is under law in this country is about being able to allow people to use copyrighted materials. That balancing act is for the good of both parties.
“Independent authors are very much a part of that economy and they need to think of themselves in that way. They’re not doing their work for the glory. They need to be able to get some compensation for the hard work that they do.”
For authors, this is important because many are concerned that if they post the first chapter of their novel on a site like Wattpad or on their blogs, they’ve lost control of it and that they’ve lost any future monetary interest in it, and that’s just not true. Whether it’s fixed on a piece of paper or in a digital file, it’s copyrighted. Kenneally was adamant that authors need to be more assertive about their own rights.
One step that Kenneally recommends is for authors to put a copyright symbol on their work, even when posting it online. This is not so much a necessary legal step since the rights are already there, but more of a reminder to readers that this material is owned and that permission can be granted or denied to use that material elsewhere. While copyright registration is no longer required to protect one’s work, Kenneally recommends it. In the past, authors were required to register their work with the Library of Congress, but that is no longer the case. However, it can be an important source of legal protection should a stolen work be fought over in court.
For Kenneally, though, there is one single important consideration that self-published authors must bear in mind, and it protects every aspect of their publication, from an excerpt of their novels sent out as a 140-character tweet, all the way to publishing the full manuscript on a site like Smashwords.
“Just because it’s in the public, does not mean that it’s in the ‘public domain.’ Anyone can get access to globally available information, and the public square has transformed itself from a physical space to a virtual one. Your blog, your pictures, your artwork, your novel, just because it’s now in the public square, does not mean that it’s in the public domain, which is a phrase people use to mean, ‘It’s free, I can do whatever I want with it.’ Finding stuff online does not mean you can take it.”
Sometimes, the most interesting news comes not from the article, but from the comments that readers leave in response. Tim Davies, blogging for The Bookseller’s Futurebook blog, posted an interesting albeit somewhat one-sided opinion piece about Author Solutions, the large vanity press that is now part of Penguin publishing, and thereby, part of Random House as well.
In the piece, Davies speculates on what is taking place with the Penguin-Author Solutions merger, especially as it correlates to the Penguin-Random House merger. The piece itself is hardly inflammatory, and is more along the vein of just questioning where all three of those divisions can fit together while admitting that Author Solutions doesn’t have the best reputation in the industry.
That wasn’t good enough for the readers.
Several noted commenters, including author David Gaughran and the Alliance of Independent Authors’ Orna Ross, took issue with the fact that Author Solutions was not clearly called out in the piece for its business practices, something that has actually resulted in lawsuits from their author clients. Rather than “poor PR,” as Davies stated in his post, the commenters accuse Author Solutions of a complete lack of customer service.
Davies was called out, in fact, for not stating clearly at the beginning of the post that he is a former employee of Author Solutions, and that his views on the company may be the result of not wanting to upset any of the three companies involved. Gaughran has some of the most interesting remarks on the piece, when he stated:
“This puff piece by an ex-member of Author Solutions’ management team (which really, really should be flagged up top) also fails to mention something else pretty relevant: Author Solutions is currently the subject of a class action suit for deceptive practices. You can read more about that here from Victoria Strauss of Writer Beware – the leading watchdog in the USA, who have received more complaints about Author Solutions than any other company. Ever.”
Interestingly, Davies responded to the non-plussed commenters himself in the post:
“I am neither a critic nor a supporter of Author Solutions and I was and am aware of the strength of feeling around them. My post was not about their business model or practice, rather it was a presentation of my theory of one of the reasons why Penguin may have acquired them, namely to use their prepress operation to facilitate the Penguin Random House merger.”
Wherever the authoring and publishing communities stand on the issue is surely divided; Author Solutions wouldn’t have the client base that it has if not for some measure of support and would not have the number of titles on Amazon that Davies mentioned, which is currently around 230,00 books. However, with more and more authors and organizations speaking up in defense of authors who’ve been wronged, hopefully those practices will change or the doors will close.
For the full text of the post and the comments, go to the Futurebook blog by clicking HERE.
Verdict: 5 Stars
So many people have been caught up in the “he was self-published, now he’s got a print deal” hoopla surrounding author Hugh Howey that they never got around to enjoying the book that started all the fuss. Sure, he has an incredible personal story of working in a book store while writing on the side, ultimately self-publishing his ebooks to great fan acclaim before landing an agent who ultimately said, “Any book deal you take is going to have to be a lot better than what you’re doing now, and that’s going to be hard to find.”
But have you actually read the book?
Published over a year ago, the Wool Omnibus (books one through five in the Silo Saga) does a beautiful job of world building inside an underground silo in post-apocalyptic America. An entire society has existed for hundreds of years, hidden away in this one massive chamber that descends over 100 stories into the ground, saving the last people alive from the noxious atmosphere now swirling above ground. The silo functions as a well-oiled machine, until someone uncovers a shocking truth: there have been a series of uprisings in the history of the silo, nearly one every generation.
As with all great suspenseful titles, there are truths covered in lies, covered in more truths. One shocking truth rises above all the rest, but to mention it here would be a spoiler alert of criminal levels.
While books one through five in Wool are available in ebook and print (thanks to that hard-to-find book deal mentioned above), books six through nine are also available in Shift. The Silo Saga will be completed later this year when Dust becomes available.
At last week’s BookExpo America event, GoodEReader spoke with Mark Lefebvre, Director of Self-Publishing and Author Relations for Kobo’s self-publishing platform Writing Life, to discuss the global potential for indie authors. While so many companies have not yet extended their reach into many foreign markets, Kobo has made its catalog of ebooks available in 194 countries, and it’s writing platform is allowing authors to reach readers on a regular basis in almost as many.
“Some of our bestselling authors are selling regularly in over sixty different countries. They’re selling in markets they never even thought of. But from an author’s perspective, you might have a following in a local market, but to sell your book in a foreign country because you made it available globally is incredible.”
“What is always fun is that typically an author’s first sales will be in the territory they live in, but what is exciting is the opportunity for cross-promotion.”
Lefebvre explained that Kobo’s algorithms suggest titles based on previous purchases, like so many other online retailers, but with its truly global reach, readers who select a title are then offered similar suggestions that don’t necessarily have to come from that original book’s territory. Readers are discovering a wealth of new authors to read, and Kobo has the connection to help those readers discover international authors that they never would have read in the era of brick-and-mortar purchases.
“We have one set of authors who are doing really well through Kobo.com, but we have a different set of authors and publishers who are doing really well through our partnership with the ABA [American Booksellers Association]. The sales that are coming through the independents is a list that is more on par with the types of books that sell really well in an independent store as opposed to a chain store. You’ll get more non-fiction, political science, higher end titles, literary titles, and those customers haven’t been trained to drive towards the 99-cent price point. Customers are already comfortable supporting independent bookstores and paying for quality.”
This understanding that comes from supporting independent bookstores through the ABA has translated into an understanding that indie authors also need the same support and reader following.
“When those books are available through the ABA stores, those customers haven’t been brainwashed into thinking the ebooks aren’t worth anything.”
GoodEReader had meetings with a number of well-known authors at last week’s BookExpo America event, such as CJ Lyons and Stephanie Bone, but one thing about these authors makes them standouts: their success. By standard definitions from the traditional publishing model, these authors would by all rights be considered bestselling, successful authors. But by the age-old preconceived notions about self-publishing, the audience reach and book sales from authors Hugh Howey, Bella Andre, Barbara Freethy would be considered nothing short of amazing.
Both Andre and Howey were the first of what will hopefully be a long line of authors who made the semi-transition to traditional publishing. Other authors, like Amanda Hocking, gained notoriety for leaving a lucrative self-publishing career to become a traditionally published author, but Andre was the first to receive a substantial advance from a well-known major publisher for her existing titles; Howey was quickly able to follow suit. Both of these authors will retain the ebook and foreign language rights to their work, but were given an advance on the print-only rights to books that they had already published.
Howey talked about the clamoring of the readers for new content, where fans will reach out to these authors immediately asking for updates.
“We have this rapport between reader and writer, which is one of the best things to come out of this revolution. They know they can say, ‘When’s the next one coming out?’” Howey said. “We can write fast enough for these readers, so I recommend other reads from the authors that I love. I’ve just never felt like it’s a competition.”
Howey mentioned that the real competition in the publishing industry is not between authors or genres, but with other forms of entertainment. Reading has to become an integral part of the audiences’ lives in order to hold their interest when there are so many other sources of entertainment vying for their attention.
Freethy, who just passed the three million paid sales mark for her romance titles, is about to release the next title in series next month. Andre has sold more than 1.5 million paid downloads of her ebooks and her print titles have already been released, but her newest title will be released later this month and will be released simultaneously as ebook and print.
All three of the authors had an interesting take on how their publishing journey has not forced them into a genre. Howey has a young adult title coming and has been working on a romance novel, while Freethy has incorporated elements of paranormal into her work.
“I know my readers and I know what they want,” explained Freethy. “My fan base is still going to like it because it’s still my voice and it’s still my story. My readers are going to come along with me and I don’t have to be pigeon-holed into any kind of category, or what’s hot, or what’s selling now. It’s just going to be the latest Barbara Freethy book.”
“I agree,” said Andre. “The amazing thing about indie publishing or self-publishing is you can connect with your readers and you can definitely write the kind of books that they want, but you can also branch out and try something new. Give it a whirl. You have to prioritize, but it’s exciting to know that I can reach readers directly.”
GoodEReader sat down with audiobook creation platform ACX at last week’s BookExpo America event to talk about the popularity of audiobooks. More importantly, the discussion evolved into what their creation and marketing can do in terms of discovery, sales, and reader fan base for indie authors.
What most indie authors may not be aware of is that platform’s like Amazon’s ACX and the opportunities to reach even more readers exist at all.
“ACX is the Audiobook Creation Exchange,” said Jason Ojalvo, VP of Content Creation at ACX. “We are a marketplace where audio rights holders, like authors and publishers, can meet audio producers, like actors and recording studios. When they come together, they can meet one another and create their audiobook through the ACX system, upload it when its completed, and it goes for sale through our distribution network.”
That network includes ACX’s portal, Audible, and iTunes. This distribution system to a broader reading audience can include exclusive or non-exclusive distribution. Under exclusive distribution, the royalty rate can be as high as 90%, while under non-exclusive it can still be distributed to those three major outlets but can also be pressed to CD, or sold through other websites or brick-and-mortar stores, but the royalty rate is significantly lower.
But is this actually lucrative for the self-published authors? According to the variety of ways to create the audio file and the different methods of finding and compensating the voice talent, at the very least it stands to not be a risky investment, but many authors are finding the even more of their sales come from the audio version than from their print or ebook sales.
“Indie authors are finding a lot of success, in fact, the majority of our books are from indie authors. We have a few Big Six publishers who use ACX, but the indie authors are really our bread-and-butter. They’re selling extremely well, and one of Audible’s bestsellers last year came through ACX, we had a couple of audio award nominees who came through ACX, and it’s becoming more mainstream.
“That’s really our goal for ACX, to bring audiobooks more into the mainstream and have it be a form of entertainment along side film, TV, video games, newspapers, and audiobooks.”
Ojalvo appreciates the comparison some people have made between ACX and Amazon’s other do-it-yourself platforms like Kindle Direct Publishing, as though it is the KDP of audiobooks, but it is especially the sentiment surrounding Amazon’s print-on-demand platform that he connected with. Much as with the idea that there’s no longer any reason an author should not make his indie title available in print, there’s no longer a reason not to create the audiobook edition.
“I love that comparison. There’s no reason not to make an audiobook. That’s one of the reasons that ACX launched. We did the research and found that only about five percent of professionally published books were turned into audiobooks. What about the other 95%? They deserve to be heard. So we created ACX so that any author or publisher can turn their books into audiobooks. There’s no reason for any audio right to lie fallow.”
Several industry experts were invited to a closed event at BookExpo to meet with Amazon executives about the state of self-publishing. Three notable self-published authors were there, including Stephanie Bond, CJ Lyons, and Hugh Howey. Along with GoodEReader, several other well-known contributors to digital publishing participated: Jane Friedman from Writer’s Digest, IndieReader.com president Amy Edelman, Justin Boog from GalleyCat, Jane Litte of Dear Author, David Vandagriff of The Passive Guy, Len Edgerly of Kindle Chronicles, and Porter Anderson of Publishing Perspectives. Amazon’s Nader Kabbani and Libby Johnson McKee hosted the event to gain insight into what authors and readers have to say about digital publishing and self-publishing.
Litte started the discussion with a question about readers’ perceived value in both pricing of ebooks, and how an ebook fares when a print book is available as well. That quickly turned the discussion to how readers perceive the work of self-published authors.
Lyons and Bond both spoke about their past experiences with traditional publishing, and both seemed to feel that the largest criticism for the industry is the snail’s pace of publication. Both recounted how their fans regularly reach out to them demanding more content, sometimes only a matter of months after a new book was released.
For his part, Howey spoke from the perspective of not having been traditionally published, but having to make a key decision about relinquishing control and a significant portion of the royalties in order to accept a contract. Rather than focusing on wider reach to a broader audience or how the contract can be beneficial to him, several publishers were too focused on the advance and royalties.
“How much are you going to pay me for saying I’m published with your company?” Howey asked in jest.
From a reader standpoint, the participants weighed in on compatibility issues and piracy concerns. While most felt that piracy was not a huge issue, what was important was the ability for readers to find indie authors’ works and be able to read them without a lot of hassle or hoop jumping, as well as how to make it possible for readers to choose to read on a variety of devices—even those from different retailers—without sacrificing their existing ebook libraries.
Edelman highlighted an interesting perspective on the self-vs-traditional status of authors, in terms of saying that readers enjoy the knowledge that they helped an unknown author get discovered.
“When people first started talking about Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn, my readers were saying, ‘Please, I read that six months ago.’”
Both Lyons and Howey added to that awareness on the part of readers with fans who would reach out to them to ask where they should buy the next book, meaning, “Where will my purchase get you the highest royalty?” That discussion demonstrated that readers are actually quite aware of the finer points of the publishing industry in terms of how authors get paid.
While there was never a feeling that either the self-publishing or the traditional models will die away any time soon, Anderson made a vital statement about the status of authors: “The slush pile is visible now and the best rise to the top.” That sentiment, echoed by others in attendance, makes it clear that the readers now have more control than ever before over what books get taken farther, and it is quality and value that will get them there.
There is still some confusion among readers and writers about what free can mean for books in terms of ebook pricing. A New York Times article yesterday explained how the algorithms that go into book ranking can be affected in ways that can result in a greater readership and therefore higher sales, even at the risk of losing initial sales.
According to the article, offers like the Kindle Daily Deal and the Nook Daily Find offer a means to promote a book, even in large enough outcomes to send it to the bestseller lists. This has proven especially helpful for books who were published years ago, and more importantly, to introduce readers to an author who has a new title coming out soon.
But what too many self-published authors fail to capitalize on is the potential for building a devoted fan base. Opportunities to be promoted via mass email from Amazon or Barnes and Noble aren’t usually offered to lesser known authors, but the potential to increase one’s following by sharing content–such as through the popular story sharing site Wattpad or by posting sample chapters on writers’ blogs–can lead to increased sales and readership.
Instead, many authors take issue with the basic principle: “You want me to GIVE my book away?!”
The New York Times article demonstrated key sales figures on authors like Stephen King and recounted how one of King’s older titles sold 30,000 copies during one day of reduced-price promotion, but that’s not typical of self-published books. What is more common, though, is an exponential increase over typical sales.
Other authors have taken issue with the concept of reducing the price of a book as they feel it lessens the recognition that books have value. Rachel Thompson, bestselling author of three titles, including the award-winning Broken Pieces, shared a criticism from an author who argued that one writer discounting his own book means other authors’ works will be ignored. While the fallacy of that statement is ludicrous, that by saying readers will only base their book reading decisions on price rather than content, her post about the critical exchange received a fair amount of support for the angry writer’s view point.
It is interesting that the wild fluctuations in price and the short-term promotional discounting have become very popular with ebooks. Without having a price actually printed on a cover, and with the realization that a discounted copy of a digital edition did not involve taking a financial loss on printing and shipping a physical book, authors and publishers are become very creative with their experimentation on ebook pricing.
Fan fiction is an often hotly-contested issue in publishing. The concept of writers taking existing characters and settings and writing entirely new story lines for them can be deeply divisive. For some authors, having fans write new plots with their established characters is a flattering look at the ways their readers engage with the characters, and symbolizes that the authors’ works were so meaningful to the fans that they weren’t ready to let go of the fun. For other authors, however, fan fiction is akin to theft, and lawsuits have been enacted to halt it.
For its part, Amazon Publishing announced today that it is rolling out a new self-publishing platform the lets writers explore their favorite characters through published fan fiction, while still acknowledging the ownership of those characters by the original rights’ holders. Kindle Worlds, a fan fiction platform that will pay both the fan fiction author and the original authors royalties from the sales, already has inked deals with several major book and television series. Under this royalty structure, the authors will continue to earn 35% of net sales.
“Our books have generated a massive amount of fan fiction, and we see this as an evolution in publishing and a valuable way of broadening our brands and engaging fans,” said Leslie Morgenstein, President Alloy Entertainment. “When working with Amazon Publishing on this scale, we know we’re in good hands and everyone will benefit.”
“Seeing Pretty Little Liars fans adapt and create their own stories is both exciting and flattering and I think what Amazon Publishing is offering through Kindle Worlds is a great way to reward their ingenuity,” said Sara Shepard, author of Pretty Little Liars.
Several authors have already signed on to have their works included in this platform, or to create new content within Kindle Worlds. Amazon Publishing will be working with the original rights’ holders to set guidelines for what is deemed acceptable to ensure the integrity of their original works.
Most industry professionals know Bowker as the source for ISBN numbers. And while the company is the overseer of those cataloging numbers for North Amercia, Bowker has also long been the driving force behind bibliographic information and searchability. Now, Bowker is setting its sights on helping indie authors find the tools they need to publish.
“Bowker has tracked extraordinary growth in the number of self-published works over the past five years,” said Beat Barblan, Bowker director of identifier services, in a statement. “There are thousands of authors who need access to advice, guidance and resources. SelfPublishedAuthor.com is designed to be their partner, helping them bring their books to market in the most effective way.”
According to the statement on Bowker’s website, it makes sense for the company to offer a stronger connection and toolset for self-published authors and indie publishers since purchasing ISBN numbers is often the first step in beginning a book’s publication process. Thanks to a new site, SelfPublishedAuthor.com, Bowker is able to offer advice to authors, connect them with other industry professionals, and more.
“We’re committed to being a comprehensive, practical and valuable resource that helps publishers build connections with the right partners and the right audiences,” said Mr. Barblan.
SelfPublishedAuthor provides newcomers with a checklist of items to be done on their book projects, a resource of blog posts written by professionals on key decisions that need to be made, and vetted companies, like publishing professional clearinghouse BiblioCrunch, that they will endorse to help authors who aren’t quite ready to go it alone. The information is aimed at no single subset of of indie publishing, but instead seeks to speak to a broader audience of users whose publishing plans involve more oversight and creative control.