The CEOs of Facebook, Google, Amazon, and Apple were grilled on Capitol Hill yesterday, stepping up the anti-trust chatter that has been percolating over the last few years. While some of you might be tempted to reflexively dismiss these hearings as political theater, many commentators seem to agree that this time feels different.
Political sands have shifted. Public sentiment towards tech companies has soured — companies who were once almost universally loved. Well, at least in the case of three of them; Amazon always attracted some measure of criticism, I guess, probably given the particular companies it disrupted.
Indie authors, in particular, perked up at the news of these hearings, given that three of those places are where we sell most of our books, and the fourth is what many of us predominantly use to drive sales of those books.
Whatever your feeling on these individual companies, their effects on society, or the forces driving these hearings, the mere prospect of anti-trust actions creates uncertainty in business terms, at a time when we already have a significant amount of it. Which makes this an excellent time to examine how well your author business is future-proofed, given the average indie author’s dependency on this set of companies currently in the anti-trust spotlight. Read More…
Also Boughts play an important role on Amazon, but it is one which is commonly misunderstood, because Also Boughts are much more important for what they represent. Which means you shouldn’t worry so much if they aren’t currently displaying on your book’s page — or even if they go away forever! — because Amazon’s giant recommendation engine will be completely unaffected.
That statement will spark some vehemently disagreement, I’m sure, but give me the opportunity to show you exactly what I mean.
Amazon makes millions of book recommendations to readers every single day — both on-site in various slots around the Kindle Store, and by email as well. These recommendations take many different forms. Some are very top-down, but most are either personalized for each individual reader, or contextual — based on what the reader is viewing at that moment, or the place they are in the Kindle Store, or an action they just performed.
Let me give you an example.
During the research process for the forthcoming second edition of Amazon Decoded, I conducted a number of simple experiments, which were quite revealing.
Have you ever noticed what happens when you buy a book in the Kindle Store? I mean, have you noticed what happens on-screen directly afterwards? Amazon never misses a trick, and as soon as you complete the purchase, a confirmation screen appears, recommending several more books of course.
Amazon is split-testing things all the time, of course, so you may see this play out slightly differently each time you purchase a book, but, commonly, you will see Amazon push the book in the #1 Also Bought slot pretty hard. Read More…
This fourth edition of Digital has been completely revamped to reflect the needs of self-publishers in 2020. The structure has been completely streamlined to reflect the ten steps involved in publishing your work like a pro.
Reflecting the specific challenges that writers face today, the advice on each step goes much deeper than before. Instead of just showing you how and where to find a cover designer, for example, Let’s Get Digital will show you how to brief your designer effectively, and learn what effective commercial packaging is for your niche, so that you end up with a cover which isn’t just pretty, but also very effective at appealing to your specific target audience.
And the same goes for writing, editing, formatting, pricing, metadata — all the areas where an author must make crucial decisions which affect the viability of their book.
Of course, the largest section of the book, by far, covers the entire topic of marketing from the ground up, showing authors not just how to find their first readers in the most cost effective way possible, but also how to construct a real author platform, one that will capture interest from readers and use those seeds to grow a community of fans around your work, who will send each new release higher in the charts. Read More…
This blog has been a little quiet in 2020, but I’ve been beavering away at a veritable smorgasbord of stuff for authors which I can finally start talking about.
The headline news: three new books for authors, a huge surprise which isn’t book-shaped, and then lots more cool resources coming to this here website; let’s expose each of these projects to the merciless glare of publicity.
First out of the traps is Following: A Marketing Guide To Author Platform and it is FREE – exclusively available as a bonus when signing up to my mailing list – which you can do right here. (If you are an existing subscriber, check your inbox – you don’t miss out!) Read More…
Apple Books For Authors has launched and the all-new site now provides help to authors for every stage in their publishing journey. And here’s the biggest news of all: PC users can now publish direct with Apple Books. That’s right!
Before now, anyone using a PC device could not publish direct with Apple Books (unless they went to the trouble of using a Mac emulator) and had to use a distributor to reach all of Apple’s customers. Now that has changed, and the new Apple Books publishing portal is accessible by web browser, and on a PC too.
That’s going to be the headline news for many people, so I just wanted to get that out of the way up top. But before we dig into that a little more, let’s take a look at some of the other aspects of Apple Books For Authors – which only threw open its doors to the public this very morning.
Hot off the presses, people. Read More…
It was the release of his fifth solo album – and particularly the single Escape (The Piña Colada Song) – which made him truly famous. At least among those who didn’t mistake the singer for Barry Manilow, a surprisingly persistent error over time.
While that case of mistaken identity didn’t dampen the song’s initial reception, another form did. It was originally released as Escape – with no mention of those famous piña coladas in the song title.
People would call up radio stations and ask for the song about piña coladas, only to be met with bafflement. And when they went to their local record store to order The Piña Colada Song, they were told the store didn’t have it. They did, of course, but it was titled something else: Escape. Read More…
The Combined Book Exhibit has been taking its traveling bookshelf, packed with hopeful authors’ books, to trade events and book fairs around the world for 85 years. But while it may have started as a vehicle for genuine publishers and authors to showcase their wares at far-flung events, today it is notorious for enabling a very particular kind of author scam.
If an author approaches the Combined Book Exhibit directly via its website, they can display their ebook or print book at prestigious events like the London Book Fair or BookExpo America for $325. This is a considerable fee when you consider what the author gets in return, especially if you have seen these tired, unloved bookcases at industry events. The idea that an agent or editor or movie producer would peruse these shelves, let alone actually acquire something from them, is risible.
Package deals are also flogged to authors. For example, to have your print and ebook edition displayed in the New Title Showcase at the London Book Fair and BookExpo America next year costs the considerable sum of $900. And then something called the 2020 International Package will take your hopefully sturdy paperback to the London Book Fair, BookExpo America, Beijing Book Fair, Frankfurt Book Fair, Sharjah Book Fair, and the Guadalajara Book Fair, at a cost of $1400 or $1650 if you want to include the ebook also. Read More…
When I was at NINC last year in Florida last year, I was telling my mailing list that all the exciting developments in audio are coming from outside Amazon right now, from people like Findaway, Kobo, Chirp/BookBub, and various companies serving the library market.
This is a most welcome development because it also feels like many of the moves (Amazon-owned) Audible has been making lately have been quite negative: the royalty cut, the new subscription service and its low pay rates, and Amazon’s controversial and brazen move to start captioning audiobooks without compensating publishers and authors – which resulted in an immediate lawsuit from the Big 5.
Those large publishers have themselves been making no friends with libraries recently, offering ever-worsening terms for audiobooks, to match those for ebooks. Which is an opportunity for indies, of course, especially those using companies like Findaway to better serve that market. Read More…
Knowing your comp authors is increasingly important these days, but writers tend to tie themselves into knots with the concept. Today, I’ll explain a very simple way to cut through all the noise and determine your true comp authors, but also detail why that line-up should change considerably depending on the context.
Comp Authors Explained
Let’s start with the basics before scaling up the complexity and getting deep into ads: “comp author” is publishing shorthand for “comparable author.” You might also hear people these days in indieworld using it in phrases like “know your comps,” or “target your comp authors.” Or you might come across the phrase “comp title” more frequently in traditional publishing.
Originally, the phrase was used by publishing professionals as shorthand to describe a given author’s voice in marketing communications and sales pitches. An agent might shop your book to a publisher describing your sizzling romantic suspense as “EL James meets Lisa Jackson,” and the acquiring editor will know right away that she’s in for a dark, twisty story where the sex isn’t just open door – the windows are probably open too. Read More…
Mailchimp attracted extreme criticism this week when it became clear how its new marketing services would impact its core email offering — particularly in terms of pricing — leading many long-time users to start explore alternatives (including this one).
I have been a loyal and happy Mailchimp customer for over eight years. I have also recommended Mailchimp to thousands of other authors. There have always been cheaper services, or those with more bells-and-whistles when it comes to advanced automation options and the like, but — for me at least — Mailchimp was always the perfect combination of price, user friendliness, and reliability.
Until yesterday. Read More…
Reader Targeting is yet another concept we have to juggle. It’s no wonder many writers take to the drink, or otherwise lose the run of themselves. Or can be a little… kooky. We have to wrestle with a number of contradictory notions all the time — it’s enough to make anyone batty.
The most obvious is with the writing itself: we need at least some level of ego to push something out into the world and ask money for it. But we also must have the requisite critical faculties to see what’s wrong with it and to motivate ourselves to fix it, and to otherwise work on our craft until the things we make are as good as we need them to be.
(As a famous editor once put it — Nan Talese maybe? — those first few years, when our taste is much more developed than our skills, are tough.)
The experienced author isn’t done with these trying dichotomies though; one in particular that we all continue to struggle with is between our artistic natures, and our commercial sensibilities. It’s not so much about what to write or how to write it — most pros can navigate that part. The battlegrounds are elsewhere, things like cover design, series titles, descriptions, branding.
And one more surprising, perhaps: reader targeting. Read More…
What is an author platform? Which elements should it contain? And is any of this stuff more important than just writing another book? Perhaps not. But certain aspects of an author platform are important tools for reaching readers and, especially, for holding on to them.
The topic can be confusing as everyone seems to be mean something different by the term. And then this problem is compounded by a lot of terrible advice proliferating, quite frankly. Number-chasing nonsense which doesn’t serve anyone.
Even the term “platform” seems to be quite nebulous and elastic — fertile ground for snake-oil salesmen. Let’s nail that down first: Read More…
When I discovered self-publishing back in 2010 it was, as for many, a dream come true after the familiar cycle of sending out manuscripts only to get a rejection six or seven weeks later. At last I would be able to get my children’s stories out and take the world by storm!
Except, of course, it doesn’t work like that…
As we all know, books don’t sell themselves and Amazon and the other platforms (not to mention bricks and mortar bookshops) won’t sell our books without our help. Of course, a great story, great cover, compelling blurb, appropriate metadata and category selection are all critical to get us off to the right start. However, to introduce and sell your title to your target market – and, crucially, keep it in their line of sight – you also need a robust marketing plan that includes a mix of social media, advertising, email marketing, traditional PR, and (for some more than others) live events.
For authors who just want to be writers, this is a tall order at the best of times. And, for children’s authors, it’s even taller… Read More…
It’s official! Amazon is closing CreateSpace “in a few weeks” and seems to be nudging people to move now. More on that below, including how the process has been simplified further – significantly in fact, especially for those with large catalogs who can now move the whole lot at once.
As I said in my post two weeks ago, it’s probably wise to get ahead of the big migration in a few weeks. Amazon has 2m titles to move; stuff is bound to go wrong. And my own experience with KDP Print customer service indicates that you might not want to get stuck in that queue with everyone else.
To encourage you to move now, Amazon has further streamlined the process and you can now port your entire catalog in one go right here. There’s also a pop-up which will initiate the process for you when you log into CreateSpace, but reports this morning suggest both are getting slammed right now. Don’t panic if you can’t get in today – you have “a few weeks.” Read More…
Ever since the launch of KDP Print, it has been rumored that Createspace is closing – after all, it doesn’t make sense to maintain a second, off-brand POD service, especially one where the architecture is creaking and security issues are multiplying.
I spoke to one of the senior Createspace people at NINC last year, and he explained that the two services have been slowly folding together at the back end for quite some time, and that they were now working out of the same building. What we’ve seen more recently is the gap between the two closing at the front end, with Createspace killing off extraneous services like copy-editing, and KDP Print replicating the last few features of Createspace it had been missing – things like author copies and expanded distribution.
Bar a couple of minor kinks to be ironed out, and a couple of international issues, that process is pretty much complete. Nobody knows for sure when Createspace will actually shut its doors, but I wouldn’t be surprised if it happens over the next few months. Which means you are going to have to move at some point. But should you do it now, or wait? Is the process tricky? I decided to find out. Read More…