Posts tagged publishing
***Bonus prediction one from the Crossroad Press Organic Shredder – Gizzy Momo – pictured left … Thunder & Lightning All Day long…***
I’ve seen some other folks making predictions about publishing and eBooks. Some of them seem pretty obvious, others show some insight, and still others seem kind of self-serving and more wishful than anything else. Crossroad Press has been in business for going on five years now (seriously, and a bit longer as a hobby). We’ve grown, made some mistakes, had some huge successes, expanded, and paid attention, and I thought, just for fun, I would make some predictions of my own for 2014. Some will be in direct disagreement with those of others…but all will be just me, talking about what I’ve seen, and what I know…
***BONUS PREDICTION FOR 2014: Neil Gaiman will continue to be wildly popular because he is an incredible storyteller ***
1) Print book sales are actually up. I see Barnes and Noble pointed out as about to flounder time and again, but here’s my prediction. Come next year, though people will probably still be predicting their demise, they’ll be right here. Nook book sales are steady for those who don’t spend as much time bashing Barnes & Noble as they do promoting books there, and working on sales. They lost the tablet war, but that was a war that no one should have started. Nooks are fine, and ePub books work on many devices. So, prediction #1, B&N will be in at least as good a shape this time next year as it is now. Probably better.
2) Audiobooks are going to start playing a bigger part in total sales, as systems like Audible’s ACX continue to make more titles accessible. With Amazon’s Whispersync for Voice program – something other eBook retailers can’t match – more readers will be able to pick up audiobooks at very reasonable prices, and more audiobook listeners will be picking up eBooks in order to get the bargain price on the audiobooks. The percentage of titles that make it to audio is already much higher than it was five years ago, and will continue to grow.
3) Content in eBooks that is video, enhanced, full of programmed features, will not do any better this year than in previous years, because they simply require people to read on tablets, not readers, and the trend (currently) seems to be (among serious readers) back toward simpler devices that are mostly good just for eBooks. If people want to watch a movie, they will download one – but books are not going to evolve into some new meta-entertainment system. At least not in 2014.
4) Libraries will continue to grow their downloadable content, and will embrace the new technologies and systems put in place to assist them. Overdrive will start to lose its market share because of simple greed – if it’s as expensive, or more expensive, to provide eBooks to readers, it isn’t going to help already suffering library budgets evolve and sustain. From personal contact with many librarians and buyers for libraries, I can state that there are a number of independent systems buying now directly from publishers, and more coming in the future. While I have seen people saying libraries will be buying directly from authors, don’t fool yourself. There will be an aggregator, and whoever that is is going to take a cut. Libraries don’t have the manpower or overhead to sift through hundreds of thousands of solicitations from authors to carry their individual books. In 2014, libraries will buy a lot more eBooks, but they will buy directly from publishers, or distribution systems.
5) Promotion of eBooks will continue to evolve. What works today will probably be on the wane by 2015 because it will become bloated, too many people will copy it, and the effectiveness will be diluted. Companies who succeed in weathering the storm will be those that keep their prices reasonable, pre-screen their titles to keep the quality as steady as possible, and change with the market. I expect that at least one of the big promoting machines will pick up on my earlier comment about Whispersync and audiobooks. I know from our own statistics that during really successful eBook promotions, we sell a ton of audiobooks on titles that are part of the Whispersync program.
6) It will not be any easier for a new author to promote or sell their books in 2014 than it was in 2013. Famous authors will continue to sell crazy numbers of books. Retailers like Amazon.com and Barnes & Noble will continue to announce books as best-sellers before they even go into pre-order. NYC will pump in the money that ensures millions of sales for books by tried-and-true authors. Most of the “Best of the Year” lists will ignore about 95 percent of the best of the year in favor of the Best of the Year published in high profile. The game, in other words, is just a modified version of the old game. The Catch-22 is that if you haven’t got a lot of money and aren’t fairly famous, the odds are stacked against you. Doesn’t mean you shouldn’t buck those odds, just stating a fact. A new cover, better description – .99 bargain price? They just don’t matter unless something causes readers to SEE YOUR BOOK. That is the key. The people who see it should not be your family, friends, and a thousand other authors…they should be people who don’t know you from Adam, but like to read.
7) Gurus will continue to tell you they know all the answers. I will continue to say – if that was really true, they wouldn’t spend so much time trying to do things other than write, they would be using their secrets and making millions. What works for one person won’t necessarily work for another. Pay attention to what successful authors say, watch what they do, but don’t try to be them, and try to find ways to use what you learn in your own way. “The next…” anyone will never be more than a dim shadow of the original, so why strive to be that?
8) Smaller print publishers will continue to be treated by bookstores as if they are big publishers, and many of both will fail because of this. Unless independent bookstores find ways to embrace Print on Demand publishers and distance themselves from the big distributors, they will continue to disappear and by 2015 there will be considerably fewer of them, shifting most print book sales to Amazon and B&N online. The old model of buying a bunch of books and then returning half of them will disintegrate as independent publishers flourish, and NYC slowly decays.
9) The age-old practice of looking at what’s hot and trying to copy it really fast will proliferate in 2014, continuing the spiral into that nonsense generated by successes in 2013, such as every variation of a shade of gray that can be applied to any sort of title being used to bump sales. You will continue to see people go on and on about thousands of “sales” that were free giveaways, best-seller lists that are meaningless, and piles of five-star reviews that don’t actually equate in any way to quality or sales. This is why – as stated above – the very popular authors will continue to be popular, and it will be hard to break in. For every book someone spent time and effort on, there are fifty crap titles with nothing in mind but ‘cranking them out’. This makes people gunshy about buying from new authors, and is also why the legit, careful promotional services will continue to draw actual readers.
10) The traditional author / agent / editor / publisher role will continue to morph. Agents are now admittedly scraping new clients off the self-published best-seller lists (probably from a lot of people they ignored when the books were originally submitted) and all this can do is lengthen the already ridiculous lag time between submitting a manuscript and hearing back. As more and more successful authors begin to see the huge profit margin shift of more independent publishing, more of their peers will begin to experiment and follow suit. Agents have a tiny number of slots they can fill these days, and the advances against royalties that almost never sell-through, according to statements, have grown so small that no one could possibly live off of them without selling five to ten novels a year. A steady income earned through solid, quality output and direct royalties back on a regular basis will win the day. Companies paying a fair amount to the authors and taking over responsibilities authors should NOT have to learn to do (despite what gurus tell them) will do well in 2014 will flourish, as will rip-off groups charging authors an arm and a leg for scanning, formatting, promotion, etc. and keeping huge percentages – something that sadly a number of literary agents seem to have indulged in. New models will emerge. Subscription based reading services like ScribD and NokBoks will test new waters.
I know a lot of this is kind of vague, and in several of these single predictions, I predict a bunch of things, and even offer possible alternative outcomes. The thing is, it’s fluid. No one knows everything, and new technology, players, and talent emerge every day. Keep an open mind, write… always be writing… and pay attention.
And from all of us at Crossroad Press, have a great New Year…
Today, I am being hosted on Blog Tour Day Four – at The Author’s Cafe. I particularly enjoyed writing this guest post because it’s something I probably would have written here anyway. Today’s post is about not allowing agents, editors, publishers, or – really – anyone tell you what you should write, or what you can’t. It’s one of the biggest shames of the publishing industry, in my mind, that authors have become convinced they have to emulate the “big thing” to get ahead, that they have to write just one thing so as not to confuse fans, and that they have to do what their agent tells them. Newsflash. The agent works for the writer, and if that’s not true, it’s not really agenting – if your agent isn’t enthusiastic about what YOU DO and how you do it, you have the wrong agent. Anyway, here’s a short excerpt from today’s guest post:
“Genres and Why I Hate Them
By David Niall Wilson
All through my career I’ve been plagued by a couple of misconceptions and a string of bad advisors. The misconceptions are:
A: You should write what’s hot.
B: You should choose a genre and stick with it so fans don’t get confused.
I won’t get into the long string of bad advisors, except to say that at least two of my agents turned out to be crooks (one went to jail for it), one told me things were being submitted and I later found out – not so much. Still another advised me to pick a bestselling book and try to do something “like that” – which led to a string of outlines, with three chapters each, that said agent could not “get behind.” I had her get behind me, and it worked out better. I sold all of those books….” ==> READ THE REST OF THE POST AT THE AUTHOR’S CAFE.
THE TOUR SO FAR:
I spent some time on the phone with a lady this morning that runs one of the bigger groups for independent booksellers in the south. It was one more in a long string of conversations that have led to this post. My goal here is two-fold. One, I want to educate everyone, readers, booksellers who might not know, and authors, on the mathematics of a POD book and why the current situation sucks. The second goal is to reach out to all of those same groups of people and work to find a solution. Here toes nothing.
For the purpose of this post, I’m going to use one of my own novels – Heart of a Dragon. This book is available in hardcover and in trade paperback, so I can show you the realities of pricing and distribution.
Out books are printed and shipped through Lightning Source. Lightning Source, of course, is associated with Ingram, but we’ll ignore that for now. Numbers:
Heart of a Dragon – Cover price $12.99 Trade paperback.
Heart of a Dragon – Cover price $24.99 Hardcover
Lighting Source has been very good to us. There is a calculator on their site where you plug in the type of book, the number of pages, and then experiment with prices and discounts so you find a point where you can make a little money and your author also makes money. It’s easy to use.
We have been discounting our books at 40 percent, hoping this would encourage independent bookstores to order from us. I know most of them use Ingrams or Baker & Taylor, and so, I thought giving this discount would at least help. On the above book:
$12.99 – 40 percent discount – we make $3.98 a book. This is split 50/50 with our authors. The rest, we split among the company and the book designer we work with. in other words. Not much.
$24.99 – 40 percent discount – we make $4.53 a book. Same deal.
That is what we make if we manage to sell a book through Ingram. What I’ve been told is – they do not pass this discount on to booksellers. They short discount it – probably no better than 15-25 percent in any case. Why? Because we don’t allow returns. To explain that. If 100 books are ordered, and we accept returns, and only 30 are sold, the other 70 are returned to Ingram, probably damaged at least lightly, and shipped to us, and we have to buy them all at cost. We have no warehouse. It’s a problem. So, we don’t allow returns.
The reality is that Ingrams WANTS you to discount your books 55% and accept returns. If you don’t accept returns, and still manage to get up to 55% you might start to see some bookstore returns, but here’s the thing. For us to make the same amount on the books prices have to go up considerably.
HC – $32.99 – 55 percent discount we make: $4.39
TPB – $17.99 – 55 percent discount we make $4.29
Then, if we were to take returns, we risk having a pile of these laying around….
If people order directly from us, we can offer the deeper discount to THEM. There may be a point in the middle where all this meets up. We may have to raise prices slightly to give bookstores 50 percent without returns. Currently, what we have done (effective the end of June) is to lower our discount to 20 percent, cutting out ANY sales to bookstores through Ingram, but lowering the cost at B&N and Amazon and directly through us and raising the amount per sale that our authors will receive. We don’t want to be for sale only on the Internet, but that appears to be where we’re heading.
What will fix all of this? A Network of independent publishers creating a single source for booksellers to order from that is simple in the way ordering from Ingram is, but that does NOT cost a chunk of the profit to use. Also, and those of you who have published through NYC know this, if we offer returns we have to change our accounting. We have to keep a “reserve against returns” on print book sales for at least six months, meaning you wait longer to get paid for your books, and if they are returned, don’t get paid for them at all. Then we have to have big “damaged book” sales and try to unload them at $5 – $10 a copy to cover print costs.
Another possibility is to make the information on POD books – cover art, description, price available in stores for customers willing to wait for delivery to their store. Maybe laminated product cards?
It’s ridiculous that we can’t find a better way for this to work in this digital age. Print on Demand has changed the availability of books, simplified the math and shipping – but not addressed the distribution. The old model is designed to work well for people using standard, off-set printing, where you pay huge chunks of cash up front, order print runs in larger numbers, dropping the per unit cost, and allowing that 55 percent discount and returns, hope to do better than break even. The really big companies can drop their per unit ridiculously low – and do – by printing literally hundreds of thousands of best-selling books that end up deep discounted, and still make money (while killing thousands of trees) Those of us working through Print on Demand channels need a new method of aggregating the available titles and making them available to libraries and independent book stores in a way that does not inconvenience them out of the game. Dealing with each of us separately does that.
We also need a way to get people into those stores requesting the books, because, in the end, that is the only way to get them to take the extra trouble – and who can blame them for that? I’m open for suggestions, and would love to hear from other publishers using Print on Demand – how you work it, if you take returns, how bad has that been? If the higher prices don’t matter – I would love to know that too. I am trying to make this print line a success..
I don’t know if what we need is a joint catalog put together by independent publishers, a network of e-mail and direct mail programs reaching out to bookstores, raising our prices and caving in…but I aim to find it.
I have seen far too many ‘gurus’ chime in on this subject, and after nearly a year in the business of growing a digital publishing company, I feel like I have some value-add to bring to the mix. I’m not a ‘guru’ and do not ever want to be considered one, but I have been doing this for a while now, and I’ve observed some things you might find usesful. It’s worth the effort, I think, to try and get it all into perspective in my own mind.
First of all, books are books. Stephen King’s eBooks sell better than those of a new writer no one has heard of. Blogs about and reviews of Stephen King books get more notice than those of lesser-known authors, and generate more sales. Authors – in short – who were already popular before putting their titles out in eBook format are still more popular than authors who were not. Authors who bring an audience from mass market publishing to their eBooks sell better than those with no track record. These are facts, and no amount of blogging, posturing, or tears will change them.
So what do you do?
There are solid answers. Covers matter. That said, you don’t need to go out and break the bank on a professional cover designer to get a very good, commercial cover. I’ve done some extensive analysis on our titles, and I can tell you that there is absolutely ZERO evidence in my data to show that the cover art is a huge factor unless it is godawful. If your little brother did it in Microsoft Paint, or you let Calibre generate it for you, or the colors are all mis-matched, you’re going to lose sales for the same reason a similar cover would not work on a print book. It looks amateurish.
That said, there is a lot that can be done with Photoshop, and there are people out there with some amazing artwork that won’t cost you an arm and a leg. You just have to look for them. Join the community at Deviant Art and meet some of the wonderful artists there. Browse the public domain photo sites. You may pay some for the rights to an image, but you can often find one you’ll like for a very reasonable price – or even free. Then all you need is to study some books, see what sort of font and text arrangement appeals to you, and find someone capable of dropping it onto your image. All that is a fancy way of saying – most of you aren’t going to make hundreds of dollars on your eBook right off the bat, and investing a bunch of cash in a cover is a serious risk that isn’t really necessary, in my opinion (and experience). Some of the covers we’ve used that I think are the most mundane have resulted in great selling titles, and several titles with amazing covers have not done well at all.
Copy-editing and format matter. If you just run a word document through some conversion program and slap it up, it’s not going to look good. If you don’t get at least one other set of eyes carefully going over your work, it’s not going to read well – it’s going to have typos. Almost no-one is perfect enough to write without errors…and though you may see them easily in another person’s work, you may also NOT catch them in your own. Do yourself a favor and – even if you have to pay a small fee for it – find a proof-reader worth their salt. Then salt them.
On most eBook sites you can assign “Tags” to your books. This might seem trivial, but it is not. There are whole groups out there cross-tagging one another’s books to bring the numbers of people “agreeing” with them high enough to bump them up the search ranks. On Amazon, for instance, if you search the word BLOOD – the book with the highest ranking on that search term is going to come up first. Also, books that have the word BLOOD in their title may start getting that book listed in the “related” products and sent out in “you might also be interested in” e-mail notices.
Price matters. If you are a known quantity,and you present new, original work, you can get more for your eBook. If you are NOT a known quantity, or if you are bringing back older work that can be bought used and cheap in print editions, don’t be greedy. If you charge the $2.99 league minimum at Amazon, you will get more per sale than you ever got from a print publisher per sale by a huge factor. Print books pay (average) 4-10 percent royalty. If you sell your book through Crossroad Press – for instance – you get 80 percent of $2.05 (about what Amazon pays us per sold title after deducting their “delivery” fee) – that’s a good chunk per sale, and it adds up fast. We sell new, original works higher – $3.99 and $4.99 – and those seem to be workable prices as well, but keep in mind what you are asking of your readers. Ignore everything else and buy my book. Give them as many reasons as you can.
Do a good write-up for the book. I sometimes have a hard time getting my authors to help with this, and I do what I can, but a good solid “hook” in the product description is crucial. In print publishing you usually have little or no input to what the publisher puts up as a description, but here – in the digital world – you can write it and even change it with impunity.
When you get reviews, respond to them positively, even the bad ones. Never drop to thelevel of a sour-voiced reviewer. You’re just playing into their game, and you’ll regret it before all is said and done. Remain professional.
Visit forums and bulletin boards and blogs that are related to a: your genre and b: eBooks in general. Be a pro-active part of their communities before blowing your own horn, or it will backfire.
Make sure your author info is available. Set up your Amazon Author’s Page. Set up your Smashwords profile. If you get reviews complaining about typos – proofread and re-publish. Never believe that because someone else did a thing, you can copy what they did and it will work for you…it’s not going to. Each book, and each author, is unique in some way, and requires an individual approach.
Product, product, product. If you have words sitting around out of print, or languishing for years without publication, I suggest you dust them off and get them out there. A body of work in eBook format can generate steady sales much more quickly and reliably than one, or two eBooks. One thing is certain – a story or novel on your hard drive for ten years unread made you no money at all.
The bottom line is – you don’t need a guru. You need hard work, patience, attention to detail, and the same bit of luck you always needed to succeed. It’s easier to get IN the door of digital publishing, but the doors are open very wide. In the old days readers clamored at the publishing door for more to read. Now those doors are big and revolving, and the readers disperse in all directions as they pass through. Latching onto them and drawing them to your work is a whole new ballgame. Pay attention, learn from what you see, don’t let ANYONE tell you the best way to do a thing is”blah blah” unless they can show that “blah blah” has worked for a lot of people over time. And just SAYING that it has worked isn’t enough. Show me stats on how that new expensive cover built sales. Show me, in other words, the money. And don’t do it by showing me someone already successful.
Also, don’t listen to tales of inflated sales. You can go to Novelrank.com and put in the AISN of any book there and track it. If it’s already being tracked, you just log in and add it to those you are tracking. This way, when someone claims a thousand sales, you can check, and if you see a title upcoming you want to keep an eye on to see if something someone did worked for promotion – you have some (albeit imperfect) stats. I’ve seen some eye-opening whoppers told on the net about huge sales that I observed personally through Novel Rank to be much smaller. Keep in mind that Novel Rank is not perfect, and that it only tracks from the moment you START tracking, so any sales prior to that you can’t see. Hype is what it is.
I am happy to offer advice if asked, but that’s all it is. I don’t know how to make your book sell better for CERTAIN – I only know what is working at Crossroad Press. We’ve grown in leaps and bounds, sales are up (best month ever happening now).
One last thing…Kindle Nation Daily sponsorship. While this is not a guaranteed success – I have found that if you listen to them – go in with a good cover price, a decent cover, at least a couple of good reviews on your book already (and not fluffy, gushing ones either – real reviews) – you can generate a good number of sales that last over several days…
We have sponsored several books there, and at least three of them did very, very well. I would recommend their service to anyone.
Enough for one day…