Kobo Writing Life is a self-publishing platform that has been going strong for the last year. It appeals to authors who want to sell their books in many different markets and establish different prices. The service excels at their sales tracking software and has just unveiled the ability to track downloads on eBooks that you flag as free.
Up until now, all reports were sales reports, and free books downloads weren't captured in that data. Now, however, you can also stay informed of which of your free books are being downloaded and where. This is useful for free eBook promotions and to gauge how successful they are.
Authors who have never given books away for free might notice some downloads under the new free category. This is due to Kobo’s marketing and support team randomly checking titles to insure compliance on e-Readers and tablets. They normally check out formatting and other common errors to make sure your title is bulletproof.
Friday, October 4, 2013
The Icarus 8 buckles the trend of six inch e-Readers and gives a solid 8 inch display for less then $150. It may not have a touchscreen, but should appeal to people who get disgruntled with fingerprints all over their devices. One thing it has going for it is the built in audio. You can listen to audiobooks or music via the 3.5mm headphone jack. Honestly, most companies don’t incorporate audio anymore in e-readers, so this is one of the few that actually supports it.
The Icarus 8 features a eight inch e-ink display with a resolution of 1024×758 pixels. It has a 1 GHZ internal processor with only 128 MB of RAM. You have around 4 GB of internal storage and the device has a micro SD card to boost it up to 32 GB.
Most modern day e-readers all have fancy touchscreens and some people are not completely enamored with that. If you look at the history of e-readers, touchscreen panels only became popular in late 2011 and early 2012. People who have older models are used to hitting the physical page turn keys and clicking on buttons to call up various setting options. This e-reader is perfect for people who don’t want all the bells and whistles and just want something cheap and cheerful to read their digital books.
Overall, the device is a bit on the heavy side, as it has an 8 inch screen. This is actually the perfect size for PDF reading and checking out the latest best seller.
Battery Life will get you around two solid months of reading before you have to recharge it via the Miscro USB cable. e-Readers are primarily designed to not run out of juice like your smartphone or tablet.
The one big hyping factor surrounding the Icarus 8 is the built in audio capabilities. This is somewhat of a lost art with mainstream companies like Kobo, Amazon, Sony and Barnes and Noble. They sacrifice anything that would increase production cost, so they can offer the hardware as cheap as possible to compete in the cutthroat US market. Icarus does an amazing job at allowing people to listen to audiobooks. There is no dedicated store to buy them though, so you will have to load them on yourself. Also, there are no speakers, so you will have to make sure you have your headphones handy.
Icarus e-Readers often have no consistency with their operating system and it is dramatically different from device to device. You have a dedicated home screen with the last five books you have opened or have loaded on it. Below that is Library, Bookmarks, Music, Photos, Extras and Settings.
One of the shortcomings about the entire Icarus brand is the inability to effectively organize and make collections. You basically have to just create folders on your reader using Windows Explorer. There is no way to really do anything on the device itself. If you read a bunch of books every month, this could be a problem, if you are a casual reader, not so much.
When you are in your library you can sort by author, title or series name. You can also display the books by cover art or just by text. One cool thing is the software telling you what eBook format is in your library. There are little icons such as PDF or EPUB beside each book, to give you visual cues.
Icarus e-Readers are really not complicated and are designed to be user friendly. You won’t find a bunch of settings or superfluous options that will be time wasters. The only extras is a short cut to the Project Gutenberg website so you can download free books.
The Icarus 8 primarily reads EPUB and PDF. This device is Adobe certified so you can purchase eBooks from other bookstores and load them onto it with little to no hassle.
This device really excels with its PDF rendering engine. It almost gives you the old school Sony type of reflow, where you can strip away all of the images and CSS layouts and just get the text. Once you do this, you can change the sizes of the fonts, which basically is your zooming to find your sweet spot.
If you have fairly complex PDF documents like gaming material or newspapers, you can just zoom, crop or adjust the display to find your optimal viewing experience. Anything you do will be maintained each page you turn.
The EPUB experience is fairly basic. You can change your fonts and margins by about 16 different levels and can select from 4 of the font types. There is no ability to load in your own, so you are relatively stuck with the default options.
Most e-readers these days all have built in dictionaries, the ability to make highlights and annotations. The average reader likely never uses these features and Icarus as decided not even to include them. You are buying this e-reader to read books, pure and simple.
This e-Reader only costs around $150 and gives you an eight inch display and audio. It may not have the most cutting edge hardware, but it gets the job of reading done. This device will appeal to people who don’t like touchscreens and want something to read PDF files on, without breaking the bank. You can purchase this device from Shop e-Readers, the Icarus North American Dealer.
Lackluster collection management
The motion-comics platform Madefire got a big boost this week with an infusion of $5.2 million of Series A venture capital funding that will allow it to further develop its products.
Madefire has already come a long way since it launched last year. Initially, it was publishing original comics by an array of creators, including Watchmen artist Dave Gibbons, but earlier this year it announced partnerships with several comics publishers, including IDW and BOOM! Studios. It’s also tacking in a different direction by forming a partnership with the grass-roots artists’ site DeviantArt. Already there is a Madefire player on the DeviantArt site that offers both Madefire originals and IDW titles such as Star Trek and My Little Pony. And the content may start to flow the other way, as Madefire is talking about bringing comics by DeviantArt artists to its iOS apps. This could be like an even more grass-roots version of comiXology submit, with emerging artists promoting their work on a common platform.
The bigger question is whether there is a demand for motion comics. I reviewed the first issue of My Little Pony on Madefire and noted that you got only half the comic for the same price as the full comic on comiXology. The motion elements were pretty good, thought. There’s plenty of bad animation out there, where the figures move like paper dolls; Madefire takes a more thoughtful approach, making the different elements of the page work smoothly together. It really feels like a comic, not a cartoon. I’m sure there’s a formula behind it, but it does make reading the comic more of an immersive experience.
The real appeal, though, may be in something else: The possibility that Madefire could include a Netflix-style all-you-can-read model. Presumably that would be something like Marvel Unlimited—pay a monthly or yearly subscription fee, read all the comics on the platform—but with comics from different publishers. That’s something readers have been asking for for a while, and if Madefire can deliver that, the market may be there.
May the digital comics be with you! Dark Horse Digital kicks off the first weekend of October with a sale on Star Wars graphic novels, in particular, two kid-friendly series: Star Wars Adventures and Star Wars: Clone Wars. Both are on sale for $2.99 each, a considerable markdown from the list price of $4.99 to $6.99.
ComiXology counters with an Ultimates sale, with single issues of Ultimate Comics Captain America, Ultimate Comics Thor, Ultimate Comics Avengers, and of course, Ultimates and New Ultimates, all for 99 cents each.
And that’s it for traditional digital comics sales this week. Only two choices, although there are quite a few books available in each.
Here’s something new, though: Digital Manga is offering 100 points if you write a review of one of their manga on their eManga site. That’s a little odd because they don’t seem to actually use points any more, but in the standard equivalence a point is usually about a penny, so I’m guessing they are paying $1 (or giving a $1 discount) for each of these reviews. Which sounds terrible unless you know that most reviewers don’t get paid at all, although they do usually get the book for free.
And finally, here’s an excellent freebie to round out the weekend’s selections: The latest issue of Infinity, on the web or within the Sequential iPad app. This is a great digital magazine featuring news, reviews, and a big article about digital comics. It’s focused on UK creators, and every issue is free so if you like the latest issue, check out the earlier ones as well with material by and about David Lloyd, Alan Moore, and other prominent British creators.
Sony has released a new version of their seminal Reader App for iOS in Japan today. It brings a number of enhancements including support for EPUB3, which appeals to people who read Manga, Graphic Novels and eBooks with Japanese characters.
Currently there are over 20,000 comics, graphic novels and manga comics in the Sony Reader Store. This new app was exclusively designed to take advantage of all of this content and appeal to the literary sensibilities of their core Japanese Customers.
Right now there is no way to book eBooks within the app, as Sony is encouraging their customers to buy all of the content on the web version of their Japanese site and then have everything that is purchased synced to the app for iPhone, iPod Touch and iPad.
New Sony Reader App for iOS Now Available in Japan is a post from: E-Reader News
More and more self-published authors and independent publishers are relying on names with a known reputation in the industry for their submissions to reviews and awards. Companies like Kirkus Reviews, Publisher’s Weekly Select, and IndieReader have a long-standing reputation that they uphold with honest reviews and genuine opportunities for accolades. Despite accusations hurled recently over paid reviews, these companies maintain that the review is not actually bought (as the outcome and rating are not pre-determined or steered by the author or publisher), but that a reading fee is charged for the reviewer’s time.
“The thing that sets a legitimate award apart from someone who’s just collecting money is looking at the marketing value of that award,” explained Jennifer Szunko of ForeWord Reviews in an interview with Good e-Reader. “There’s a great deal that goes into the judging, the marketing of the event, and the actual event itself. We got to great lengths to give all of the winners and finalists a great value by dedicating pages in the magazine to the winners and finalists in two different issues, and we also make our announcement at the American Library Association’s annual conference in June, to give more exposure to the winners and finalists. You have to think about the cost of shipping out two copies of each book to two sets of judges all over the country, and the manpower that it takes for an event like this is amazing. We’ve got editors, an IT person, travel expenses, shipping, the awards…there is a lot involved.”
Some authors may still baulk at the gamble involved in an event like this one, no matter how reputable the company may be. The important thing to keep in mind is that a three- or four-star review from an entity that is respected within the publishing industry provides far more credibility and valuable feedback for the author than a host of five-star reviews from people the author may know personally or professionally.
“If you don’t win, then you don’t really gain anything, but you can look at the books that did win and ask yourself, ‘Where did I fall short?’ The books in your genre give you an idea of what the judges were looking for, and these are librarians, booksellers, and publishers, people who are industry professionals.”
ForeWord Reviews announced today that its Book of the Year Awards, open to books published in 2013 in any format, are now open to submissions by following the link found on their website.
It’s been a BBC-y week this week. Look East dropped in a few days ago, and we think their footage is going out this evening. Today, Rory Cellan-Jones, the BBC’s Technology Correspondent, dropped by the office with a production team too (as you’ll have noticed if you read his or our Twitter feeds) – and yesterday, Clive was on The Daily Politics, talking about computing in schools.
Here’s Clive’s (very short) segment. All being well, we’ll have some more BBC footage for you some time next week.
JK Rowling’s interactive fan site Pottermore has been slowly and meticulously rolling out new content in a timely way. While each project has been slow to release, the amount of material included in each of the books that have been made available is nothing short of astounding.
Pottermore announced today that the fourth book in the Harry Potter series, Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire, is now available for members of the site. This news is probably a welcome announcement, considering that members who had been sorted into the Hufflepuff house upon membership were given early access to the content in book four as a reward for their house winning the fourth Pottermore House Cup.
According to the site’s blog, Pottermore Insider, “We're excited to announce that all members of Pottermore.com are now able to explore the first installment of Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire. Soak up the atmosphere of the Quidditch World Cup, find a Chudley Cannons badge in Ron's bedroom at The Burrow and witness the terrifying Dark Mark in the sky for the very first time. You'll also be able to listen to the first ever Pottermore.com audio entry from J.K. Rowling, as she reveals the story of the most notorious Floo Network mishap. Don't forget that you can share your thoughts on every book, chapter and Moment as you move through Harry's Storyline on Pottermore.com. If you have a Twitter or Facebook account, you can join the conversations there too.”
The included audio excerpt from Rowling is the first time that the author has addressed the fans in a recording of this kind. Rowling has become well-known for her release of background information on the story, its characters, and the processes that went into the making of the wizarding world.
Rowling is currently at work on a screenplay for an additional movie in the Harry Potter franchise, although it will not involve the characters from the beloved book series but focus instead on a side character who contributed to the storyline.
There are thousands of eBooks released every single week by indie authors and sometimes they feel a need to stand out in the crowd. Most turn to social media platforms such as Facebook, Twitter or participate in the Goodreads community. Some people think that authors are spending too much time on social self-promotion at the expense of honing their craft.
In a recent BBC interview, author Jonathan Franzen lamented “What I find particularly alarming, again, from the point of view I care about, American fiction, is that it’s a coercive development. Agents will now tell young writers: ‘I won’t even look at your manuscript if you don’t have 250 followers on Twitter’. I see people who ought to be spending their time developing their craft and people who used to be able to make their living as freelance writers. I see them making nothing, and I see them feeling absolutely coerced into this constant self-promotion.
In a recent article in The Guardian, Nesrine Mailk said “A distinguished British author and historian recently told me in a private conversation that his publisher had forced him to go on Twitter in order to promote his latest book. Having joined just for this purpose, his timeline was an unbroken litany of self-advertisement. He soon realized that the constant promotion was backfiring, and that his “brand” was being tarnished as followers were beginning to snipe at his hitherto exalted status. Indeed, the whole exercise was creating the impression that he was a pompous bore whose brash self-promotion did not match the profundity of his work – but he did not know how to rectify that.”
Barbra Freethy recommends to avoid social media distractions altogether, and just to write the next book “I’ve seen writers waste too much time planning Facebook parties and posting on Twitter. All of that is important, but the best thing you can do for yourself and your growing fan base is to write the next book. It’s much easier to sell the third, fourth, fifth, sixth book, then the first or second. I try to limit marketing to no more than an hour a day and the rest is spent on writing. You have to prepare for the long haul. You don’t have to sell all your books in a week or a month. You’re going to be selling your books for years, so spend time making them really good, and the readership will grow!”
The only thing that can be counted on to enhance your visibility as a writer is to interact with readers in a real, honest, and generous way. If you are dead bent on using social media, focus all of your energies on a singular platform. Hugh Howey said he focused on the readers he already had instead of trolling the universe for more. When you create the kind of goodwill and loyal fan base he has, word of mouth spreads about your books. That way you get those “1000 true fans” instead of amassing pointless lists of numbers.
Instead of focusing all of your marketing efforts on Twitter and Facebook it is important to establish your brand. You simply cannot do this from scratch and I recommend to join RedRoom, SheWrites, Wattpad, or myWANA—sites where both readers and writers congregate and foster meaningful dialog.
Failing that, you can take the advice of Bret Easton Ellis‘s friend, who reportedly told him at the Vanity Fair Oscars’ party: “You need to get off Twitter. People think you’re crazy”.