Articles tagged "authors"

Independent Publishing at SXSW

SXSW, the Austin-based conference that features events base around technology, education and music took place last week and I’ve now finally recovered from all the excitement of having all of these insanely talented minds congregating in one place. While I did not attend the interactive presentations on independent publishing (they were packed!), from outside the convention center, I can tell you that independent publishing and eBooks had a huge presence, as the technology continues to evolve and become even more intertwined with other digital platforms like phones, tablets, and videogames.

In the Publisher’s Weekly roundup of events, you can see how the energy around independent publishing has freed up authors t make more interesting publishing decisions:

“Originally published by small press, Hugh Howey quickly decided to go the self-publishing route generating an enormous word of mouth following that turned his books into e-book bestsellers on Amazon. Indeed Howey said at one point he was generating $30,000 to $40,000 a month in sales and selling hundreds of thousands of e-books.”

The move by established authors to selling books on their own was a huge topic of conversation. For established authors to then use their reputation and leverage a successful independent publishing campaign from it has been a huge development, and lent a lot of credibility to independent publishing.

Another new development has been the discussions over whether you should give away content for free to build your credibility. David Carr, of the New York Times, had some choice words at his presentation,

“Don’t give your shit away for free,” he declared to the hall—emphasizing that “exposure” doesn’t work and free doesn’t lead to paying customers. But he also seemed so focused on the newspaper world—unsurprisingly— that his vision for the future of digital content kind of stops at the New York Times website, now revitalized with an innovative pay wall generating a sustainable and growing level of income. 

It seems like the argument over pricing will go on for some time. However, walking along the convention hall, it was easy to see that the rise of eBooks will continue at its staggering pace. New electronics, like Google Glass, will make reading even more accessible. eBooks will continue to grow and the fact that the leaders in technology are even talking about books, unthinkable only a few years ago, is a testament to this wonderful phenomenon.

Any writers out there make it down to SXSW this year? What did you learn? Any plans to go next year?

Reselling eBooks raises questions for authors

Over the past week, debate has intensified over the practice of reselling eBooks. Amazon and Apple both filed patents last week to make reselling eBooks a reality, and the collective reaction by readers and book-buyers across the Internet was ambivalent. Of course, selling and buying used books has long been a practice in the publishing world, but eBooks provide a series of new issues that need to be resolved before the practice can become widespread.

When you would buy a physical version of a book, you would buy the rights to owning one copy of that book. It could be resold to whomever you chose, at whatever price, but at least there was only one copy of it. eBooks are a little more complicated with their ability to be copied as well as the multiple Digital Rights Management choices out there for authors. Every author’s worst nightmare is seeing their book go out there, become a hit, and everyone reading a pirated copy. Luckily, that hasn’t been the case so far for eBook readers. A lot of readers enjoy buying their books, which is good. But at what price do they want to pay for it?

If the book resells for a dime, wouldn’t it cut into the profit margins of the author, especially if it is being resold right next to the original full-priced eBook? Mark-downs are common for used copies of physical books, but that’s because they physically degrade. A “used” eBook would look just like the original one.

David Pogue over at The Times tries to sort through this complication — physical degradation of a book is necessary for its discount.  He goes through the patents filed by Amazon and Apple and doesn’t quite find a solution, but believes that publishers and writers will find a common-ground that allows for used eBooks to help writers make a living, while also making their work more available and affordable.

What do you think about the possibility of used eBooks? As writers, do you want their to be a secondhand marketplace?

Unleashing the TED Talk Within

Over the last few years, there has been a single high-profile destination for leading thinkers and experts to share their ideas: the TED Conference, a four-day festival of ideas and the arts, devoted to solving the largest problems our society faces. Featuring the career-altering opportunity to talk in front of today’s thought-leaders, speaking at TED is a dream-come-true for idea leaders, and one of the most coveted slots in professional speaking. Not only that, but it has become a prime opportunity for authors to promote their books and brand. Authors are already incredibly adept at turning their ideas into a narrative. At TED, the people who tell stories the best are often rewarded with attention and the chance to make a huge impression on the movers and shakers of our changing world. Through TED, excellent authors are able to establish themselves as leaders in their field, as well as bring a huge amount of attention to topics that have a great impact on the way we live.

The format is simple: presenters are given 18 minutes to share their expertise. Presenters range from the high-profile, like Bono, to young and rising thinkers like music blogger Amanda Palmer. Experts can discuss topics of all sorts, from the design of community gardens to the proliferation of cheap technology across Africa. The main requirement for participants is that it has to be something that can change our world for the better, usually by solving a problem with innovative thinking.

TED, and idea-based conferences like it, believe in unconventional ways of solving problems. That means looking for inspiration in different places, bringing smart people into the room together, as well as letting experts have their say in the plainest way possible — no jargon here, basically. The TED Talk within you is one that will make your highly complicated expertise seem simple to a general audience. The TED Talk within you will inspire other smart people with ideas and leave with their own “aha!” moment — as in, why hasn’t anyone thought of this before?

Cloe Shasha, who works at TED, has found that in her own opinion, “The best speakers’ talks are the ones whose content is driven by what they do. The theme emerges out of one’s experience, work and goals in a way that tells a story.”

In that spirit, here is a step-by-step guide to developing your own TED-caliber talk:

Small problem, global scale: When thinking about how your expertise can change the world, think about how your knowledge can solve a huge problem with a simple solution. For example, Tristram Stuart turned his expertise into a book, Waste, about food waste across the globe, and then into a popular presentation on how we can eliminate food waste across the globe. His hypothesis was that if we make clear just how much food is being wasted, people would demand that we no longer waste as much. By simply showing people how much food was wasted (a small act), he has been able to work against a global problem, and has become a successful TED presenter in the process.

Build your argument. Set the scene for your presentation: state what the problem is, what the solution is, and how your idea can achieve it. Often, if you work backwards from your great idea, you’ll lose the momentum of your presentation, and the audience won’t be as well acquainted with the problem you’re solving. By building to it, you make your solution seem inevitable.

Keep it simple. Your visual presentation should be simple, and only act to help highlight what you’re saying. “Nothing distracting you from the true message. Crazy effects on PowerPoint? I’m not a big fan. Something that gets your point across visually and verbally and through sound and movement can be very powerful,” Shasha says.

Practice, Practice, Practice. Who should you give your presentation to? Everyone.  “Use your friends! Your colleagues! Your family! Practice a version of a talk in the form of a story at The Moth, as long as you think it would fit the theme! Maybe even try an Open Mic Night and tell a story,” Sasha recommends.

Try to keep in mind however, that the presentation is still going to be a massive simplification of your expertise and what you’ve spent so much time writing about. Make sure people see how complex your field is, enough so that, of course, they’ll want to read your books. As Salon’s Alex Pareene reminds us, TED specializes in “drastically oversimplified explanations of complex problems.” So don’t think you have to solve everything in one PowerPoint. Just get the audience excited enough to look into your field, and see an old problem in a new way.

iBookstore showcases indie books in new Breakout Books section

You might notice something new on your next trip to Apple’s iBookstore: You! Independently-published books will be prominently featured as part of Apple’s new “Breakout Books” section. Featuring titles from independent authors, the section will work to highlight books that have been highly rated, regardless of how they have been promoted or who published them. In short, taste will rule. And for independent authors, that is incredibly good news.

The books that will be featured will be broken down into four categories: Romance, Sci-Fi & Fantasy, Mysteries & Thrillers, and More to Explore (we’re guessing that encompasses everything that can’t be easily put into a genre). This kind of attention, putting a book front-and-center in front of millions of prospective readers is a huge opportunity for independent authors. In the past, publishers would fight over this “front-of-the-store” space, usually reserved for books with huge initial print orders and authors with highly established reputations. Now, just by writing a quality book, authors can find their book with the type of promotion that usually comes with a high sticker price.

According to the New York Times (Apple to Highlight Self-Published Books), one of the main motives for getting behind independent publishers was their pricing: independent authors sell their books at significantly lower costs than major titles (those produced by major publishers). This pricing model encourages readers to buy more independently published books than they would more expensive ones, further democratizing the marketplace.

While “Breakout Books” will not always be the center of attention on the iBookstore, it marks a major change in how digital booksellers are respecting independent authors and how quickly the marketplace is changing. In what was once a field dominated by six major publishers, there are now thousands of people each acting on their own, letting the quality of their work act as their best publicity.

As readers, would you buy a book that has been highly rated by other readers? As writers, how do you think this will change independent publishing? Do you know of any other digital bookstores that have this type of promotion? Let us know!

What to Read?

Finding recommendations for independently published books can be difficult. Over at The Guardian, Dan Holloway explains:

“As a reader, I believe life is too short: if I want a great thriller, there’s enough Mark Billingham and Tami Hoag to work through. If I choose to read self-published books it’s because I want something different.”

Holloway also outlines resources for finding well-reviewed self-published books. There’s the Indie eBook Review, which reviews recent self-published books, as well as IndieReader, which does an incredible job writing thoughtful reviews of some really interesting self-published books. All in all, Holloway paints a portrait of a burgeoning literary culture surrounding independently published books, one that’s sure to grow as self-publishing becomes the dominant force in the literary marketplace. As a writer, it’s incredibly important to keep track of who is writing reviews and what kinds of books garner attention, especially if you want your title to find a large audience.

Another great resource is Booklamp.org, the “home of the Book Genome Project. Similar to how Pandora.com matches music lovers to new music, BookLamp helps you find books through a computer-based analysis of written DNA.”

A great way to make sure your own book gets reviewed is to look into some of Lulu’s reviewing services, including options to have your book reviewed by Kirkus or Clarion reviews.

So, where do you find help selecting books to read? What websites or book reviews are helpful? Do you think self-published books are getting the right amount of respect from reviewers? Have you ever reviewed someone else’s book online? Let us know!

Additional Reading:

Are eBook borrowers eBook buyers?

The struggle to get eBooks into libraries continues. Large publishers seem to be at an impasse, unsure whether giving libraries the rights to their books will drive down sales. Independent publishers, on the other hand, have been making their own eBooks available to libraries for some time, be it independently or through a platform.

For authors, libraries are a great way to broaden readership, but does it also help the bottom line? What we really want to know is: Are eBook borrowers eBook buyers?

According to a survey (New Survey Supports That Ebook Borrowers Buy, Too) conducted by the library-lending platform Overdrive and the American Library Association (ALA), readers who borrow eBooks from a library also end up buying more than three eBooks per month. Not only do readers who use digital libraries end up buying books, they’re actually more enthusiastic to buy after a visit to the eBook library.

“Library lending encourages people to experiment with new authors, topics and genres — which is good for the entire reading and publishing ecosystem,” Carrie Russell, director of the ALA’s Office for Information Technology Policy, said.

With the major publishers slowly, and hesitantly, entering the library market, now is a great time to get an eBook into the library, especially when selection is so limited and the appetite so huge. According to the survey, over half of respondents would consider buying an eBook they encountered on a library site, and almost 60% considered the library their main interaction with new titles. (For us, who follow books tirelessly on the Internet, that seems nuts! But this proves that libraries still play a huge part in book culture and book promotion).

It will be interesting to watch over the next few months how the transition of eBooks into libraries goes. It might be the perfect opportunity for independent publishers and independent writers to gain a foothold in a voracious marketplace, one that’s not as conventional as a bookstore, but is deeply entrenched in the book-reading ecosystem nonetheless.

Would you offer your eBook to a library? Have you? Do you believe the results of the survey or does your own experience tell you otherwise? Let us know in the comments.

Opportunities for Self-Published Authors with Shelf Unbound

A guest blog post from Shelf Unbound founder Margaret Brown.

When we launched our first Shelf Unbound Writing Competition for Best Self-Published Book last fall, I was thrilled by the response (800+ entries), by the quality of the submissions, and by the sense of community I felt from engaging with these authors and their works. In response to all of that, Shelf Unbound has some new initiatives for 2013 that might interest self-published authors.

First, the call for entries for our second annual writing competition for best self-published book will go out in the middle of the year – if you sign up for a free subscription to Shelf Unbound magazine, you will be the first to know when we announce it. The winners of the 2013 competition will be featured in the December/January 2014 issue of Shelf Unbound magazine, which reaches 125,000 avid readers in the US and in 57 countries around the globe.

Second, we’re launching a regular department that will feature notable books submitted to our competition that did not make it into the “winners” issue.

Third, in an effort to provide a forum and community for self-published authors, I’m inviting self-published authors to be guest bloggers on the Shelf Unbound blog. I’m looking for 250- to 300-word essays on writing and/or self-publishing — feel free to talk about your book and give it a plug and include your website and/or links to your book. Just email me your text and I’ll let you know when I run it (margaret@shelfmediagroup.com). Please put “guest blog” in your subject line.

Finally, we have ad rates for self-published authors starting as low as $250 – shoot me an email if you’d like details – Margaret@shelfmediagroup.com.

I invite you all to be a part of the Shelf Unbound magazine community. I wish you all the best in the New Year. Keep writing. – Margaret Brown, publisher, Shelf Unbound.

BIO

Margaret Brown is the founder and publisher of Shelf Unbound book review magazine, a 2012 Maggie Award Finalist for Best Digital-Only Magazine. She is a lifetime member of the National Book Critics Circle.