Articles tagged "Self-Publishing"

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?

How to make a great science eBook

Science journalism has always been at the forefront of innovation — the first to utilize diagrams in reporting, the first to experiment with the advantages of digital books. But what makes a great science eBook? Download the Universe, a wonderful new website devoted to reviewing science eBooks, has highlighted the best eBooks of the past year, and shared some of what makes them so great.

One of the things that they point out is something we take for granted in a lot of science books: get your facts right and include a lot of them! A lot of the books they disliked this year were thin on backing up their argument, and left a lot unexplained. As readers of science books know, they can sniff out a weak argument from a mile away. One of the advantages of publishing an eBook and not an article online, is that you’re working with a little more of a deadline — make sure you’re taking advantage by backing up your facts. Once it’s out there, it’s tough to edit your eBook.

Another tip they give is to take full advantage of the medium of eBooks (this might depend on your ability to code, however). If you’re writing about the body, interactive features help a lot, while if you’re writing about geography, maps are obviously the way to go. As the famed theorist Marshall McLuhan noted, the medium is as much the message as the book itself. Take advantage of the eBook’s ability to complement your science writing with some truly exciting animations, images, or audios.

Download the Universe gives high marks to book publisher The Atavist, which published a series of eBooks that took full advantage of the eBook medium, including some wonderful illustrations, audio features, and diagrams. Look for more, smaller publishers in the future to offer software that will allow independent authors (like yourselves) to put together simple interactive features that will not only enhance your eBook, but allow readers a much better understanding of what can be, at times, very difficult content.

The future of science writing is as bright as a supernova! Just make sure you’re using eBooks to their full extent with a wonderful assortment of features.

What have you used to enhance your eBook to better explain an idea or discovery? What do you wish you knew how to do with your eBook?

Should you just give it away?

What’s better than free?

It might seem irrational, but one of the best ways that authors have found to gain popularity and profitability for their eBooks has been to, well, give them away. Authors have found that dropping the price of their books to $0, at least for a short time, leads to dramatically better sales when they do raise the price.

[Recommended Reading: How Free Books Build Your Brand as an Author and Authority]

Speaking on The Self Publishing Podcast, independent author David Wright found that this type of promotion works, especially with writers who work in genre fiction. “Free downloads drive sales,” he said. “Especially with the serialized fiction model, where if our readers get our first episode for free, they want to read on, so they buy the next episode or the full season.”

[Recommended Reading: How To Serialize with Lulu]

Dropping the price of your eBook can help raise your sales rank and visibility, while, at the same time, promoting other books you’ve written. Of course, the lost revenue can sting a bit, but who knows if readers would have taken the plunge on your book if you hadn’t taken the cost-free promotional plunge?

But is a free promotion right for you? For serialized fiction, the answer is yes. Get readers hooked, and then get them to buy the rest of your series or your other titles. For experts and speakers, the answer is also yes. You want to spread your brand and name, and an eBook is even better than just giving out your card. Use your eBook mainly as a promotional tool — not a revenue stream.

Here’s who this promotion might not work for: writers of long, literary fiction who depend on sales to make up for some of the painstaking work that went into their novel. It might also not work for historians, who also put in a tremendous amount of time and energy and whose specialized knowledge has a place in the marketplace and should be able to find a readership despite its cost.

Either way — it always helpful to experiment with different marketing tools. Dropping your price to zero might feel weird, but the eventual reward could be huge. If it doesn’t work out anyway, it’s just as easy to start charging more for your book, and go back to the drawing (or writing) board.

Have you tried this technique? What was your experience?

Print Books Bounce Back

The reports of the death of the printed book have been greatly exaggerated.

Sales figures from the end of last year show that while they don’t dominate the marketplace as they once did, print books are showing a good amount of resiliency during the precipitous rise of eBooks and the shifting of content from the printed word to a digital sphere. According to the Wall Street Journal, the role of eBooks might have been greatly overestimated. “It may be that e-books, rather than replacing printed books, will ultimately serve a role more like that of audiobooks — a complement to traditional reading, not a substitute.”

It’s fair to say that a seamless transition from printed books to digital ones just isn’t happening, and the marketplace that we live in now — where both printed books and eBooks are having brisk sales — might be here for some time. According to a 2012 survey by Bowker Market Research, 59% of Americans say they have “no interest” in buying an eBooks. While I believe that this number will go down as more and more Americans familiarize themselves with reading on digital devices like tablets, it goes to show just how much of the population is still wedded to our old friend, the printed book. This transitional market bodes well for authors looking to explore multi-platform publishing, as they will be able to test the waters of both a digital and print readership, and see which one works best for their content.

While it doesn’t appear the the rise of eBooks has stopped in its tracks, it has definitely slowed. When it comes to eBooks, a lot of consumers and providers are still working out the kinks. Publishers are still trying to figure out how much they should cost, while libraries are desperately trying to make them widely available to the public. In the goodwill of making eBooks and an author’s content as widely available and as equitable for both the reader and author as possible, Lulu recently said goodbye to DRM. So while the market has definitely shifted over the past few years, we won’t be living tomorrow in a world without the printed book, and probably won’t for years to come.

Advice from a Wise Guy

Photo credit: @abennett96 on Flickr

Guy Kawasaki, one of the most prominent venture capitalists in Silicon Valley, as well as one of the original marketers of Apple, has struck out on his own and self-published a book (which fittingly enough, is about self-publishing). APE: Author, Publisher, Entrepreneur explores the pitfalls and successes of self-publishing from the vantage of a Guy (sorry) who knows a thing or two about success in the digital age.

He’s recently compiled a list of “do’s and dont’s” for independent publishers, which can be quite helpful to consider when you’re embarking on your next big independent publishing project. All of them are particularly smart things to keep in mind, and are questions that one should definitely revisit each time you publish a book.

His bottom line, however, is that when it comes to publishing independently, nothing is set in stone. So with that in mind, here are a couple of additional pieces of advice to consider, especially for keeping yourself in a good state of mind when entering the wonderful world of independent publishing.

1) Let it work for you. You will need to make a decision on how much effort and time you devote to the project. If you would like to make a living off of independent publishing (which is still very hard to achieve), then you will need to give it your all. If you are only able to give half of your attention, then recognize that the results might not be as great as you expected. Keep your expectations in line with your effort.

2) There is no magic formula. Some books take off, others languish. Some of your success will depend on conditions out of your hands. So, even giving it your all might not be enough. Recognizing that we have yet to crack the magic formula of independent publishing is huge.

3) Write because you love it. Kawasaki touches on this a little bit, but I really want to stress that this is the most important part of writing. Love the act, even if it hurts sometimes. Remember that this is your passion, as well as a possible way to make some money. Here, I offer a great quote from poet Rainer Maria Rilke on how you now if you’re called to be a writer:

Go into yourself. Find out the reason that commands you to write; see whether it has spread its roots into the very depths of your heart; confess to yourself whether you would have to die if you were forbidden to write.

This most of all: ask yourself in the most silent hour of your night: must I write? Dig into yourself for a deep answer. And if this answer rings out in assent, if you meet this solemn question with a strong, simple “I must,” then build your life in accordance with this necessity; your whole life, even into its humblest and most indifferent hour, must become a sign and witness to this impulse.

-Rainer Maria Rilke, Letters to a Young Poet

4) Be your worst critic/best champion. Be hard on yourself — push yourself to get your book into shape, polished, and something that you really want the world to see. But once you do it, then make sure you are your best champion. You need to believe in your book before anyone else will.

As independent publishing continues to expand, the litany of advice will continue as well. What are your best inspirational tips? What has helped you avoid mistakes? What was the best advice about independent publishing that you ever received? 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.