Building a Killer Email List

There is a lot of upheaval in publishing today and I think that’s likely to increase rather than decrease. The best insurance policy any writer can have against the future is a targeted mailing list. I’ve written before about how the author with the biggest mailing list wins, and I’ve invited Nick Stephenson along today because he’s got some great ideas on how to boost your list. The cool thing about his approach is that it’s something anyone can do. And, as you will see, it really, really works. Here’s Nick with more: Building a Killer Email List As an author, I try to read as much as possible. I tend to get excited over 8 or 9 different authors across a few Read More…

Gatecrashing the Cosy Consensus on Amazon

A group of bestselling traditionally published authors – including James Patterson, Scott Turow, and Douglas Preston – engaged in an act of breathtaking hypocrisy on Thursday with an open letter calling on Amazon to end its dispute with Hachette. The letter is incredibly disingenuous. It claims not to take sides, but only calls on Amazon to take action to end the dispute. It also makes a series of ridiculous claims, notably that Amazon has been “boycotting Hachette authors.” Where do I start? The Phantom Boycott First of all, refusing to take pre-orders on Hachette titles is not a “boycott.” Pre-orders are a facility extended to certain publishers – not all publishers. Many small presses don’t have a pre-order facility. Most Read More…

Media Bias and Amazon

There is so much crap being spouted in this anti-Amazon media push that you need a nose-peg and waders to get through it all. Let’s take a look at what happened this week. Hook, Line & Sinker Statements from either side in the Amazon-Hachette dispute have been thin on the ground. Both companies are said to have signed NDAs – restricting formal comments while negotiations are ongoing – but Hachette has been leaking to reporters, and marshaling authors and industry figures in its defense, leading to an extremely one-sided depiction of events in the media. Which is fine, it’s a pretty standard negotiation tactic, and a clever one if media conglomerates like Bertelsmann (part-owner of Penguin Random House), CBS (owner Read More…

Amazon v Hachette: Don’t Believe The Spin

The internet is seething over Amazon’s reported hardball tactics in negotiations with Hachette. Newspapers and blogs are filled with heated opinion pieces, decrying Amazon’s domination of the book business. Actual facts are thinner on the ground, however, and if history is any guide, we haven’t heard the full story. Here’s how it started. In a historical quirk of the trade, publishers and booksellers negotiate co-op deals at the same time as the general agreement to carry titles. (For those who don’t know, co-op is the industry term for preferred in-store placement, such as face-out instead of spine-out, position on end-caps, front tables, window displays, and so on.) At publishers’ insistence, the same practice has continued in the online and e-book world, namely Read More…

Thinking Inside The Box: Building Audience With Bundles

After my marketing post last month, I promised a follow up on box sets. In fact, I’ve gone one better and invited Phoenix Sullivan to do a guest post on the topic. Today is perfect timing actually because we have just launched SINS OF THE PAST: 5 Historical Novels of Mystery, War and Adventure – just 99c at Amazon, Apple, Barnes & Noble and Kobo: For those that don’t know Phoenix, she’s a self-published author who also runs her own publishing company – Steel Magnolia Press – together with romance author Jennifer Blake. In the last 18 months, Phoenix has also been experimenting with box sets and, as you will see below, the results have been astounding. I’ve known Phoenix for a while and no-one knows Read More…

Astroturfing, Zombie Memes & Publishing

Why are there so many zombie memes in publishing? Why is there so much groupthink? It might be because the industry isn’t particularly diverse. Or it could be that book-lovers are nostalgic types who are automatically wary of change. But I suspect it’s astroturfing by the publishing establishment, a practice admitted to last month by YS Chi, chairman of Elsevier and president of the International Publishers Association, in paragraph six of this article. For the click-lazy, here’s the money quote (emphasis mine): We gathered all the communications people together to discuss the issues and create an action plan. We have a multi-faceted audience to address, and in the next 12 months you will see key messages delivered, compelling stories of our Read More…

Publishing Is Easy

There are three primary tasks a writer must undertake to get her work into the hands of readers: writing, publishing, and marketing. Out of those three, I respectfully submit, publishing is by far the easiest. Writing Writing a book is hard, and writing a good book is even harder – at least from the perspective of the inexperienced writer. Most people who think about writing a book never start one. Most people who start one never finish it. And most people who finish a book never polish it to the point where it’s ready for prime-time and/or never get it out the door for one reason or another. To write a good book, you have to put in the time Read More…

5 Book Marketing Myths You Need To Forget

Anyone familiar with Joanna Penn’s blog – The Creative Penn – will know what an excellent resource it is for writers, particularly on marketing, where she regularly offers no-nonsense advice that actually works. When I heard she was writing a book on marketing, I was eager to see what she would come up with, and managed to wangle an advance copy. How To Market A Book is a comprehensive guide to book marketing, with a much wider scope than something like my own Let’s Get Visible. I can see it being particularly useful for those who are struggling to get to grips with marketing (or to fit it into their busy schedule), but I think everyone could get something from it (including Read More…

Don't Be Fooled: Big Publishing Hates Competition

The reaction to the filing of the DoJ’s antitrust suit was laughable, if somewhat predictable. Among other things, the DoJ has been accused of working for Amazon – helping them to “destroy the publishing industry.” If you want to sample the mindset I’m referring to, simply visit the comments of any article on the matter in the trade press – such as this or this (although this vocal group are strangely absent from articles such as this one describing publishers’ (alleged!) attempts to cover up their actions by deleting emails). I’m not sure when “the publishing industry” become exclusively synonymous with the largest publishers. I’m not sure when their narrow interests became everyone’s interests, because what’s good for Penguin isn’t necessarily Read More…

How The Agency Model Led To An Antitrust Suit

As reported yesterday, the Department of Justice has filed its antitrust lawsuit against Apple and five of the largest publishers (Macmillan, Penguin, HarperCollins, Hachette, and Simon & Schuster). A settlement has been agreed with HarperCollins, Hachette, and Simon & Schuster; Macmillan claimed the terms were too onerous, and Penguin appears to have refused to contemplate settling. The agreed settlement must still be approved by the court, but among the conditions are the end of Agency (despite the attempted spin by PW in the above-linked article) and the return of pricing control to the retailers (such as Amazon). In addition, the settling parties will be monitored by the DoJ, who must be copied on any communications surrounding this or any related Read More…

The Anti-Amazon Campaign Jumps The Shark

The anti-Amazon stories seem to be coming thick and fast at the moment. Salon posted an article on Sunday written by Alexander Zaitchik called Amazon’s $1 million secret which contained the sensational allegation that Amazon donates $1 million to various literary and non-profit groups. A more complete list of beneficiaries is here, but it includes the Brooklyn Book Festival and PEN; journals like The Los Angeles Review of Books, One Story, and Poets & Writers; 826 Seattle (a tutoring program aimed at kids) and Girls Write Now (a mentoring program for girls); as well as various other associations such as Lambda Literary (supports LGBT literature), Words Without Borders (international literature), and Voice of Witness (human rights). Wait. Hold on one Read More…

Jodi Picoult and the Myth of the Segregated Marketplace

Jodi Picoult made headlines last week for her views on self-publishing, expressed in an interview with the Daily Beast (from Page 2): What advice would you give to an aspiring author? Take a workshop course. You need to learn to give and get criticism and to write on demand. And DO NOT SELF PUBLISH. Unfortunately, Jodi Picoult wasn’t pressed by the interviewer and didn’t elaborate (it would have been amusing if she had done so IN ALL CAPS). The (outdated) blanket warning to avoid self-publishing generated a lot of reaction in the comments of that piece and anywhere else it was reprinted. I won’t rehash all that, only to note that, by contrast, Ms. Picoult thinks it’s a fine idea to sign with an Read More…

How I Failed My Way Into A Book Deal – Guest Post by Matt Ellis

I first met author and editor Matt Ellis last summer through Twitter. We exchanged a few emails, after which Matt posted a thoughtful review of one of my short stories, If You Go Into The Woods. In that some post, Matt aired some of his concerns about self-publishing, not least how the promotional burden can chew up precious writing time, and we corresponded about that for a while. Several months later, after an underwhelming experience with self-publishing, Matt made a radical decision about one of his books. Here’s Matt to explain what he did, and why he did it: The Joys of Unpublishing, or, How I Failed My Way Into A Book Deal This winter, my life’s dream was realized: Read More…

Selling Ebooks Direct: How To Set Up A Simple E-Bookstore

Selling e-books direct to your readers has just got a little easier, thanks to a new company called Gumroad. I heard about them through indie author Sarah Billington on Friday, had my store up and running on Saturday, and fully pimped out by Sunday. (Cost = Zero!) But before we get to that, should you open your own e-bookstore? Advantages of Selling Direct The first obvious advantage is higher royalty rates. You can earn a lot more than 70% if you sell direct. I’m making $3.49 on my $3.99 titles (as opposed to $2.70 from Amazon) and I’m getting nearly double the royalties on 99c titles. On top of that, I can now directly serve readers who face higher charges internationally Read More…

St. Patrick's Day Blowout: Results

If you were on Twitter over the weekend, you probably heard something about the St. Patrick’s Day Blowout Sale that I ran here on the blog. A few of you asked how it was all put together, and plenty are keen to hear the results, so I thought I’d run through it all for you today. As you will see below, it was very successful. So successful in fact, that it might spawn a few imitators. For those thinking along those lines, a caution: I would imagine there would be diminishing returns on any promo like this, and I might suggest adding your own twist to get anything like the same results. On top of that, it’s a hell of Read More…