What The Big Tech Hearings Mean For Indie Authors

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…

Apple Books For Authors – Now With PC Access

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…

BookBub Ads and Wide Authors

BookBub Ads are especially useful for wide authors. I decided a while ago that I was going back wide with all my books. Sales were pretty anemic to begin with (readers don’t magically discover books), but then I put together a little marketing plan. I don’t want to invest too heavily in pushing my historical novels until I have a couple more books in my series out, but I was curious to experiment with a few different approaches for pushing wide books. After nabbing an International-only BookBub Featured Deal for Liberty Boy, I decided to build a little campaign around it, particularly looking at sales internationally, and off-Amazon. When you are in KU, it makes sense to concentrate sales. As detailed Read More…

Wide vs. Exclusive: A Tale of Two Marketing Systems

Lots of people right now are asking themselves whether they should leave Kindle Unlimited. I’m generally agnostic on it, and I think writers should do what is best for them and their books, but there’s no doubt this is the big question of the moment. That’s partly down to falling pay rates, Amazon’s inability to deal with scammers and cheaters, or the increasing concern about having all your eggs in one basket when something like this (or this, or this) regularly happens. But I think authors are asking themselves the wrong question. The real issue, I suggest, should surround how you are going to find readers on these retailers (or on Amazon, if you have decided to swim in the Read More…

Amazon and Simon & Schuster Agree Terms

Simon & Schuster has agreed a multi-year deal with Amazon covering both e-books and print books. Business Insider reported that negotiations only took three weeks and were concluded two months before the original contract expired. I’m confused, does this mean the end of literary culture or not? Someone needs to run up to Douglas Preston’s quaint writer shack to find out. (If you get lost, it’s at the back of his 400-acre estate). It also begs a question: what exactly is Hachette holding out for? As everyone knows at this point, Hachette’s contract with Amazon expired in March and the two parties have been unable to agree a deal since. The narrative being pushed by the media was that Amazon’s desired terms Read More…

Battle of the Distributors: Smashwords vs Draft2Digital

Since I started self-publishing in 2011, Smashwords has been the overwhelming favorite for savvy self-publishers who wanted or needed a distributor to reach non-Amazon e-bookstores. However, a new competitor called Draft2Digital launched a beta version of their service earlier this year and has been gaining popularity. In July, they hit 1,000 users, 10,000 titles, and 1,000,000 books sold. I’ve been getting lots of questions about Draft2Digital, and experimenting with them myself, so I thought it was a good time for a side-by-side comparison as there are distinct pros and cons to each service. But before we get into that, let’s look at the question of whether you need to use a distributor at all. The virtues of going direct In my 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…

Scott Turow: Wrong About Everything

On Thursday it was reported that the U.S. Justice Department was preparing to sue five of the largest publishers, and Apple, for (allegedly) colluding to fix e-book prices. Despite the shock expressed in some quarters, this is hardly a bolt from the blue. It’s almost a year since the European Union raided the offices of several publishers in France, Italy, and Germany, kicking off their own Europe-wide anti-trust investigation – later folding into that probe a similar move by the Competition Authority in the UK to examine the Agency Agreement. It was also widely reported late last year that a U.S. Justice Department investigation, along similar lines, had commenced. On top of that, it’s over six months since the law Read More…

Amazon Is Creating Competition, Not Killing It

The big topic (again) seems to be Amazon and competition – whether it is a monopoly, or is heading in that direction, and whether they should be “stopped” (although, I’m never quite sure what that entails exactly). Barry Eisler dealt with this fear, rather conclusively, back in October in a guest post on Joe Konrath’s blog. But lately, the hysteria has been ratcheted up a notch by Mike Shatzkin’s sensible prediction that Amazon will soon be responsible for 50% of most publisher’s sales (I can’t link to Mike’s original piece at the moment, there seems to be a problem with his site, but Passive Guy quotes the main points). The Author’s Guild now has Amazon firmly in their sights. An article Read More…

A New Strategy for a New Year

To enroll or not to enroll, that is the question on a lot of writers’ minds. I have had several posts on KDP Select, because it’s a complex issue, without one “right” answer that will fit all self-publishers. If you are just catching up, I came out against the program before Christmas, but featured two authors recently that are doing well out of it: Marilyn Peake and Patrice Fitzgerald. To wrap up this mini-series, I have a guest post from bestselling author Sarah Woodbury, who hasn’t enrolled in KDP Select. Instead she’s exploiting the increased opportunities on other retailers. Here’s Sarah: *** When Amazon first announced its KDP Select program, my heart sank. I knew that going exclusively with Amazon would Read More…