Self-publishing is a polarizing topic in the publishing world. There is no denying that the sheer amount of titles has dramatically increased in recent years. The average bestseller list on the New York Times, or Amazon normally has 3-4 indie titles in the top 25. One of the side effects of more people self-publishing is the sheer number of people preying on them.
Self-published books made up a tiny proportion – 2% – of all books purchased last year, this figure increases dramatically, to 12%, when print books are removed from the equation. When we look back at 2012 there were 391,000 indie ebooks published, up 59% over 2011 and 422% over 2007. Ebooks continue to gain on print, comprising 40% of the ISBNs that were self-published in 2012, up from just 11% in 2007.
When it comes to publishing a digital book yourself, there are a myriad of daunting barriers. How exactly do you formulate a proper table of contents? How do you convert the your book from Word to EPUB or to a Kindle friendly format? What is the industry standard for line spacing, font types or margins? What is the average cover art size for Apple iBooks, or Barnes and Noble? Aside from just writing your book, you could spend months formatting it correctly to self-publish, if you never had to do it before. Not willing to learn, or to cut corners is prompting predatory behavior from publishing companies, vanity presses and unscrupulous review companies.
One of the biggest boogeymen of the publishing world to prey on writers is Author Solutions. They are billed as a ”self-publishing” company currently doing business with several major publishers, while acting more like a severely abusive vanity press than an actual self-publishing service. They company has assembled a stable of “self-publishing” and print-on-demand services, including Author House, xlibris, iUniverse and Trafford. Other publishers have outsourced self-publishing work to ASI under a variety of names.
Author Solutions tends to charge authors a few thousand dollars to digitize and print their eBook. There is no editing or copyrighting, those are extra. When a book does not sell well, aggressive telemarketers try and upsell authors to bigger packages. Things are so bad that three authors have filed suit, airing a laundry list of complaints and alleging the company is engaged in deceitful, dubious business practices. "Defendants have marketed themselves as an independent publisher with a reputation for outstanding quality and impressive book sales,” the complaint reads. “Instead, Defendants are not an independent publisher, but a print-on-demand vanity press."
This is just one particular company, but there are hundreds of them out there. Once your book is written, it is time to promote it. This is where the predators such as Kirkus Reviews and Publishers Weekly come in. They have starter packages where you can pay them $800 to write an impartial review of the book, to use on marketing material. Often, once you do that they try and upsell you on banner advertising on their website, running some authors a cool $8,000.
If you are looking to find a company to assist you in writing, digitizing or selling the book for you, there are a number of resources out there. Preditors & Editors is a resource website geared towards the serious writer. They say that their "aim is to assist." If you click on Book Publisher Listings, you will find an alphabetical list of hundreds of traditional publishers, self-publishing companies, and vanity presses. If Preditors & Editors has received complaints about a company, this will be noted in red type after the company listing. These warnings might simply say, "Not recommended," or "Subsidy press, not recommended," or "Charges fee. Writer complaints. Not recommended," or even "Poor contract. Strongly not recommended."
I have talked to thousands of indie authors over the years and most of them want to continue to write and their books are not often one-offs. If a writer wants to make a living off of their writing, they should learn how to do it themselves. Understanding the semantics of cover art design, table of contents, proper formatting and knowing where to distribute will help you more then simply relying on someone to hold your hand and hope for the best. In this life, the only person you can truly trust is yourself and you owe it to yourself, to not be let down.
Have you been scammed by a self-publishing company or got a weird email? Sound off below.
Friday, February 28, 2014
The Atavist is a boutique publishing company that launched in early 2011. Evan Ratliff and New Yorker senior editor Nick Thompson started the digital exclusive service to promote short and long-form Fiction. One of their new titles features an interactive eBook cover, done by legendary cover artist Chip Kidd.
Karen Russell is a New York Times bestseller who wrote the novel Swamplandia! Her new book is an imaginative and haunting novella about an insomnia epidemic set in the near future. “Sleep Donation explores a world facing the end of sleep as we know it, where "Night Worlds" offer black market remedies to the desperate and sleep deprived, and where even the act of making a gift is not as simple as it appears.”
This new interactive cover is actually a fairly solid marketing campaign and is giving the book some early buzz. It is being sold exclusively as an eBook and will be available at the end of March on Amazon, Kobo and iBooks.
Barnes and Noble is seeking to retool the Nook division and to stem the tide of declining revenue. The company has lost over a billion dollars since they first unveiled the Nook e-Reader back in 2011. They are hoping to solve the situation by firing a large percentage of their workforce, capitalizing on digital sales and releasing a new tablet.
Since fiscal 2014 began, approximately 190 NOOK positions have been eliminated both through reductions and attrition. The bookseller has spent over $2.4 million dollars on severance packages, but should save money in the long-term. Most of these positions were in the hardware and programming departments. Currently, even with these reductions Nook has 500 people currently working in that division. Likely, further layoffs are anticipated to happen during the year.
Last quarter Barnes and Noble sold $50 million dollars worth of digital content, which incorporates apps, books, magazines and videos. In the US, the bookseller controls roughly about 20% of the eBook market, whereas a year ago they had 27%. The bookseller is hoping to capitalize on more international distribution via Microsoft to boost revenue. This is a good model, because it is not reliant on internal staff to promote and market the Nook Reading app for Microsoft, the Redmond company is doing a fine job at hyping it.
Finally, Barnes and Noble announced plans for a new Nook tablet to be released sometime this year. If we look at past trends, it will likely come out in October, to gear up promotional efforts both online and in the retail stores for the pivotal holiday season. Nothing is really known about the tablet yet, but there are rumors that the company will be dealing with Foxconn to manufacture the devices and their California R&D division will handle the design.
Two years ago today*, the Raspberry Pi Model B went on sale, selling 100,000 units on the first day. Since then, over 2.5 million Raspberry Pis have found homes with hobbyists, children and professional engineers around the world.
The success of the Pi has allowed us to make substantial financial contributions to a range of open-source projects, including XBMC, libav, PyPy, Pixman, Wayland/Weston, Squeak, Scratch and WebKit, and we are continuing to sponsor projects like these. But it’s always felt like we have a piece of unfinished business.
In common with every other ARM-based SoC, using the VideoCore IV 3d graphics core on the Pi requires a block of closed-source binary driver code (a “blob”) which talks to the hardware. In our case, this blob runs on the VPU vector processor of the BCM2835 (the SOC or System On a Chip at the heart of the Raspberry Pi); our existing open-source graphics drivers are a thin shim running on the ARM11, which talks to that blob via a communication driver in the Linux kernel. The lack of true open-source graphics drivers and documentation is widely acknowledged to be a significant problem for Linux on ARM, as it prevents users from fixing driver bugs, adding features and generally understanding what their hardware is doing.
Earlier today, Broadcom announced the release of full documentation for the VideoCore IV graphics core, and a complete source release of the graphics stack under a 3-clause BSD license. The source release targets the BCM21553 cellphone chip, but it should be reasonably straightforward to port this to the BCM2835, allowing access to the graphics core without using the blob. As an incentive to do this work, we will pay a bounty of $10,000 to the first person to demonstrate to us satisfactorily that they can successfully run Quake III at a playable framerate on Raspberry Pi using these drivers. This competition is open worldwide, and you can find competition rules here which describe what you have to do, and how to enter.
This isn't the end of the road for us: there are still significant parts of the multimedia hardware on BCM2835 which are only accessible via the blob. But we're incredibly proud that VideoCore IV is the first publicly documented mobile graphics core, and hope this is the first step towards a blob-free future for Raspberry Pi: we’re continuing to work on that, and we hope you’ll come along with us!
* Okay, so sue us**: we launched on February 29.
** Please don't sue us.
Earlier this week Buzzfeed posted a list titled 22 Books You Pretend You've Read But Actually Haven't. It was a humorous take on the books that many people keep on their bookshelves but may have never actually opened. While I can say I have actually read most of these titles, there are some that I'm guilty of showcasing but never cracking (Crime and Punishment, I promise to get to you but I have to finish The Brothers Karamazov first!).
Apparently, I wasn't alone as this list has been viewed 250,000+ times just this week. What connects all of the titles on this list is that they are almost all universally revered as classics and many of them are required reading for school-aged students around the world. That doesn't mean you actually read them though, so we've created the complete list of these titles in Marketplace. The great thing about these titles is whether your users are reading them for the first time or rereading them again (I've lost count on the number of times I've read Of Mice and Men or anything by Charles Dickens) they are all highly important titles sure to circulate often.
Add these titles to your digital library today and you can even talk to your Collection Development Specialist about adding them to a featured collection!
Adam Sockel is a Marketing Communications Specialist with OverDrive
Now, Sourcebooks has announced a whole new line of much-loved classic characters with the introduction of Charles Schultz’s Peanuts brand into the platform. Using the same tablet technology that has made Put Me in the Story so popular with parents and teachers, readers can now experience Charlie Brown, Snoopy, and the entire Peanuts gang in personalized stories.
"We are thrilled to be partnering with Peanuts," says Dominique Raccah, CEO and publisher of Sourcebooks, in a press release. "By adding these books to the Put Me In The Story personalized platform, we're giving fans young and old new ways to experience the beloved characters of Charlie Brown, Snoopy, and the rest of the gang—a Peanuts story starring YOU!"
"As we continue to build on our strategy of introducing new generations to the Peanuts property, partnering to create stories in new digital formats is key," said Craig Herman, Executive Director of Publishing for Peanuts Worldwide. "We have no doubt that Sourcebooks is the right partner to create quality products featuring the Schulz characters."
Two books will be available this year, Good Grief, It's Your Birthday and Cheer Up, Charlie Brown, both expected to be released in early fall. Future titles are already anticipated, as well as the availability of the print books in physical bookstores.
One of the biggest benefits to the platform is the ability to order the personalized editions of the stories in print, making it a lasting keepsake or special gift for a special reader.
Android and malware seem to like each other very much, but Google is about to spoil it. The search giant is in the process of launching an update for its Play Services that will make is difficult for mischief makers to inject malware-infected apps into the Google app store. An update to Android's Verify Apps function will now be made to work 24/7. Verify Apps will now be scanning apps at all times behind the scenes to find out if there are any issues to be dealt with. This will no doubt be a good thing given the popularity of the Google platform and recent reports that Android has the highest susceptibility to malware attacks.
The Verify Apps function was first introduced with Android 4.2 version but it would only verify an app when it went live at the Google Play Store or when an update was made available. Verify Apps will also look for issues in apps that a user might have installed directly and not via the official Google Play Store. It will search for known trouble making codes and when a match is found, it will notify the user via warning messages.
According to Google, it will be relevant for almost 99 percent of devices running Android. While some developers choose to bypass the Google strategy of matching apps against known codes by launching some advanced codes, these no doubt will eventually get caught once Google becomes aware of the malicious codes. Now it comes down to how often Google updates its own database of malicious codes. In any case, this is an excellent development considering the threat level associated with Android.
And while the household names of self-publishing continue to make headlines and progress, there are a number of authors who just like to do what they do best: write and publish books that thrill their fans. Dubbed by his fellow authors as one of the hardest working writers in publishing (with no less than ten books written, edited, and published per year), Russell Blake spoke to Good e-Reader about what’s right, what’s wrong, and what’s going on in publishing.
“The traditional publishing system, for all of its flaws, is a lottery. For every thousand people that submit, maybe two will get picked up by an agent. Then add another thousand agented authors to it, there’s only a few slots every year in each genre for a new author. The odds are pretty terrible as an author of making anything.If you do get your advance, it’s going to be in the five to ten grand range, spread out over five to ten years. How is that a good deal?
“The vast majority of authors are working day jobs…but if you look at the implications [of self-publishing], a lot more authors are able to earn a living wage, if you will, than five or ten years ago.”
Even though the book industry’s seemingly archaic ways are often compared unfavorably to that of the music industry when it comes to the selling of digital content, Blake likened the system of selecting the “next big thing” to the way that record companies often chose the next artist.
“You would find a hundred artists, give them each $100 grand worth of studio time and one music video, then you would throw all one hundred acts kind of out there and see which one or two began breaking big. And that one or two got all hype and media attention, and the other ninety-eight failed, and went nowhere. The large publishing business is like the record business: they’re great once something is breaking, but they’re kind of terrible at knowing what’s gonna break next. That’s the shotgun approach that traditional publishing has taken.”
Blake is one of the growing crowd of authors who’s come to realize that this broken model stands in the way of creating dynamic content for readers, earning a livelihood, and the basic principle of enjoying the writing process. His personal formula for writing and publishing through platforms like CreateSpace for his print editions and online platforms for ebooks has resulted in twenty-five books on the bestseller list, featured articles in the Wall Street Journal and other major newspapers, and a book co-written with Clive Cussler, to be published later this year.
“You can make a living, and for some authors a very good living, just writing what you want in your voice. That’s amazing, that’s never happened before.”
While e-ink display technology may have lost its sheen with the slow demise of standalone ebook reading devices and the growing number of tablets, e-ink is witnessing a resurgence of sorts with smartwatches. We have already seen quite a few smartwatch concepts based on e-paper display, and Archos is the latest to promise an e-ink-based smartwatch sometime this summer. This will be the fourth model in its smartwatch line-up, with the other three introduced during CES in Jan.
Archos hasn't revealed all the details just yet, though the latest model seems to have a lot in common with the smartwatch trio launched early in January. However, the latest model will incorporate a touchscreen display and is expected to be the costliest of the lot. Also, it would have a curved e-ink panel made of plastic instead of glass to achieve the curvature.
Archos is not known for cramming an insane number of features into their smartwatches, something that Samsung has done with its Galaxy Gear devices. Instead, they visualize the smartwatch as a companion to a smartphone and would help the user with notifications and other data that they receive on the smartphone. The Archos smartwatch will also be compatible with both Android and iOS. It is a simplicity in their approach along with a relatively cheaper price tag that makes their smartwatch score big in a market that is already pegged to be worth billions.