Posts filed under 'Indie-Publishing'

Update: of books and backs

It’s been a while.

The last few months have seen a resurgence of my back pain, as bad as it first was. To cut a long story short, I’ve opted for surgery this time, and I go under the knife next week. Spine surgery is never something to be undertaken lightly, but everyone’s case is different and unique.

To books. Being laid-up gave me the opportunity to catch up on some things. One of those things was to advance the promotion of Broken Evolution, to cross those last things off the indie-author’s to-do list.

Firstly, I set about getting some reviews from real readers – readers I don’t know and who have no vested interest in sparing my feelings. Friends and family and fellow authors are all well and good, but they will veer towards encouragement. I had the niggling sensation that I never really knew what I had with Broken Evolution and that I would have to get real at some point to find out. I would have to get actual reader reviews. The result: average. Broken Evolution is not brilliant; it’s not a disaster either. It’s an ok read. And I’m convinced now that “well-written” in a review is a euphemism. Anyone who has ever used it or received it will know what that means! However, I have learned from them all, and could carry what I’ve learned through to my writing in future.

The second goal was to get the novel into as many readers hands as possible, to start building a readership. Here’s what I’ve learned. Paperback is a waste of time for an Indie author. EBook is the only way to go to start with. Amazon have the indie author market sewn up. With the introduction of KDP Select, it is the only reliable way of pushing your eBook up in the search results and differentiating it from the millions (and counting) of eBooks just sitting in the Amazon catalogue. If you’re an unknown author, 99 cent eBooks do actually work to get some sales (better sales than at 2.99). Free is even better (assuming you are more interesting in starting a readership than making money. If your goal is to make money out of it – start something else). With the latest ebook price fixing ruling, it seems certain that Amazon now set the terms of indie publishing (and even trade publishing) and for many years to come. Indie authors will need to be familiar with Amazon’s rules of the game – albeit the visible rules only.

For now, I now have a novel read by thousands of readers – what any starting author needs.

It’s been a ride. On the other side of recovery I’ll decide whether it’s a ride I should return to. Chronic pain alters you. It drags your spirit down. Concentration is lost. Motivation becomes a struggle. Motivating to write is hard even at the best of times; this isn’t the best of times. You teeter on the edge of depression – and the view from there is ghastly, let me tell you. Pain is very personal journey that can not be shared. Only those who have experienced severe unremitting pain understand. I can only hope mine is now near an end.

Raw, but real.

Add comment April 27th, 2012

Words in motion (at last!)

I haven’t been idle! The final manuscript has gone for typesetting. The ISBN has just arrived. The updated site and marketing materials are in development. The ebooks are being formatted.

Words … finally in motion.

It’s been a long uncertain journey to get here, but I’m finally feeling excited again. Enjoyment is what it’s all about.

Add comment May 18th, 2010

What’s Amazon up to?

Dealing with corporate clients, handling their last minute rush requirements that absolutely have to be done by Christmas (happens every year!) got me thinking about the megacorps of publishing. The megacorp of publishing – Amazon. Ok, so bear with me. I’m have a suspicious mind. It comes from reading and writing all those thrillers.

When I first considered self-publication a year ago, BookSurge was the candidate. In the meantime, it has been subsumed into the great belly of the Amazon beast. Not long after, Amazon stated that the only vanity press they would list on their site was … BookSurge (CreateSpace as it has recently been renamed).

There’s the rub. And a portent of the future. That was a clear case of Amazon leveraging it’s online market dominance to push out other vanity presses, and so maximize its profits from that sector of the market. It is a common strategy of all megacorps, like Tesco and Walmart. Suppliers are so glad to get into chainstores like those, that they will take a financial hit for the sake of wide exposure. And the megacorp will squeeze them financially, because they know they will take it.

In the Internet age, if we are not vigilant, we will live in an age of monopolization of the distribution channels. The companies who control the distribution channels set the rules of the game, and can squeeze suppliers.

So who are Amazon’s book suppliers? The publishers? Yes and no. Mostly no. Because it is the authors who actually make the product. Amazon knows this. This is why CreateSpace makes such sense for them, especially in the long term, as I will explain shortly. If they capture the huge volume of vanity published authors, it doesn’t matter if they sell only a few books on each. Amazon aren’t fussy, because one person’s buck is as good as any other. Multiply a few book sales out by the volume of vanity authors they can capture (remember, they control the main distribution channel). And they can charge the author for the privilege of using their vanity services too (the willing supplier will be squeezed gladly for access to the distribution channel).

Publishers aren’t really the suppliers. They are the middle men in Amazon’s paradigm. Amazon need publishers for now, of course, because Dan Brown’s latest will drive browsers to Amazon in droves. But in the future … who knows. Apart from squeezing supplier’s profit margins, the other strategy megacorps use to maximise profits is shortening the supply chain. On the Internet, this is known as disintermediation. The middle men are kicked out, because the distribution costs are kept low, and the Internet company can connect supplier directly to customer. Authors linked directly to customer, by Amazon alone. Internet companies will use and tolerate any intermediary only so long as it makes financial sense for them. With Borders bookstores closing daily, will Amazon grab some high street pick-up points for their consignments on the cheap in a recession? If Amazon become the distribution channel for books, what’s to stop them signing contracts with Dan Brown once his contract with his publisher expires? What’s to stop them from setting up an X-Factor book site to crowd-source the next Dan Brown from the ranks of all the CreateSpace authors?

Publishers beware. And watch what Amazon is up to. Gradually, Amazon’s interests may be to push the publishers out of the chain and deal with authors directly. Small shifts, inexhorably, over time. Too suspicious for you? It’s not just me: Publishers need Amazon – but do Amazon need publishers?

The big worry, in such a doomsday scenario for publishing, is who would be left to fight back against the megacorp in the author’s interest?

But, for now, we’ll all happily use them. They’ve got the biggest, best distribution on the Internet. Right?

Add comment December 14th, 2009

Print on demand (just give us 2 weeks)

I’ve been meaning to try out the print on demand process, to see what it’s like (not for self-publication, but for an idea I have as part of my marketing plan).

Anyway, two weeks ago, I discovered a genuine excuse to try it out. I have a couple of beta readers lined up to gauge opinion on a novel. I planned on giving typescripts, but having given one out before, I know how cumbersome a ream of printouts can be for a casual reader. I also feel that casual readers would treat the manuscript more honestly as a book for review if it is actually presented to them as a book.

Aha! Now that’s a use for print on demand!

One reader was heading on holidays soon, so giving him a “holiday read” copy would be ideal (it’s probably the only time he’d find time to read it anyway!) So I chose Lulu because they can do private projects (where only the author can see and purchase them, and author retains all copyright). For safety, I retired the project after shipment. I’m sure publishers might balk at this behaviour, but – hey – I ain’t got that problem yet! This is my solution to ARCs for the unpublished! The trim sizes are a little limited, but I picked a suitably bookish one. For the cover, I left it all black with no title, no text .. nothing. I figure he’d love the kudos of reading an all-black mystery book in the airport lounge. A copyright notice figures prominently too, in case he leaves it there (that’s the disadvantage of giving less cumbersome review copies – maybe too portable!)

I can see why so many frustrated authors get sucked into POD vanity publication. It so damned seductive. Shiny black novel arrived this morning. Now, getting it to market – that’s not so easy, and not “on demand”! As a way of generating review copies though, it’s perfect, and seeing one copy in print might be a good catharsis to keep the impatient author submitting to agents just that bit longer.

A triumphant success. Just one problem – my reader left for holidays three days ago.

Yet again, “on demand” it ain’t. It takes up to five days to print, as I learned, and then there’s delivery time after that.

Oh well, maybe next holiday …

In the meantime, I’ve got a copy of my very own novel on my desk … to keep me going that bit longer.

Add comment April 21st, 2009

A Writer’s Life for Me?

More and more I’m considering that writing is best as a hobby than a career. Rats in the Slushpile makes a convincing argument based on the fickleness and random nature of the publishing industry, but (as if that weren’t enough) I came across the TIME magazine article How Writers Live. It paints a realistic picture of what awaits the majority of writers. Here’s my salient & sobering synopsis:

  1. The number of books published per year has doubled in the last 100 years. Fewer than half now sell more than 5000 copies.
  2. Author royalties are dropping, from 20% a decade ago to an average of 12% now
  3. Advances are smaller than a decade ago (average $1500)
  4. As a result of all this, the number of part-time authors who want to create, but don’t want an impoverished existence (like myself) is on the increase.
  5. As a result of that the average length of time to produce a novel has moved from one year to three years.

All in all, it sounds to me like there is a shift occurring in the publishing industry. The shifting strategy adopted by the publishing industry seems to be to sign-up many authors quickly for as little as possible and drop them just as quickly when they yield no profit, and to adopt ghost writers to pen to order cookie cutter clones of marketable fiction or celebrity non-fiction. Could it be that this strategy is inducing a shift in strategy by authors too, authors who are no longer content to create for such dubious rewards, but rather choose to empower themselves with the new tools of the internet and a flexible part-time writing lifestyle?

Could it be that the publishing industry is killing the golden goose? Or perhaps publishers are simply taking the steps necessary to ensure their survival in a global, competitive environment. On the face of it, it could be claimed that this is leading to a suffocation of human artistic endeavor, but upon closer examination, I think that it is a positive thing because it is leading to a profusion of cottage industry type publishing.

A diversity of many creative voices, which would otherwise be stifled by commercial homogeneity, can only be a good thing for our future.

Add comment July 9th, 2008

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