Posts Tagged ‘ epublishing ’

Trad Publishing: Sinking Ship? Or Phoenix that will Rise from the Ashes?

Way back in 2011 (anyone remember that long ago?) one of the more imaginative assertions of the grandees of indie spokes-folk was the suggestion that print was on its deathbed thanks to digital, that the Big Six publishers were going to the wall, and self-publishers would inherit the Earth.
Well, no question self-publishers have gone from strength to strength, and we all know how well the tiny minority at the top are doing.
But most of these are formerly trad-pubbed authors with an established brand built up over many years, and a backlist of titles they’ve re-acquired rights to.
All credit to them for seizing the opportunity and taking control of their careers. But let’s not for one second pretend this is something your average new author, starting out from scratch as a self-publisher, can hope to emulate.
Sure, there are exceptions, but they are few and far between. And the same goes for the formerly trad-pubbed authors now going it alone to huge acclaim. It is precisely because they are exceptions that they are news worthy.
What I find increasingly bizarre is the advice they give out to new authors. Don’t even think about promotion until you have four or five titles out. Forget free and cheap strategies – “you indies have no business sense”. And best yet, aim to put out a new title every two weeks!
What planet are these people on?


I ran a post on MWi back in May of last year suggesting the doom-mongerers might be a bit premature with their predictions.

Back in 2009 there were two schools of thought. Either this “new” epublishing fad would die a death and paper would remain king (the experience of the newspaper industry being a classic example) or the Big 6 were finished.
As one leading pundit said in April 2009, the Big 6 were not even “rearranging the deck chairs on the Titanic – they’re staying put and ordering more piña coladas and charging them to rooms that are already underwater.”
Two years on the Big 6 are most definitely still with us, and while there’s no question they are changing, there’s little sign that they are going under. Which will be a great disappointment to Konrath, but should be a big relief to the rest of us.
Paper sales are plummeting, giant bookselling chains like Borders are in liquidation, and Konrath and co. have already written the obituaries for the Big 6 and are there, spades in hand, digging their graves.
But I disagree. I simply cannot see the end for the Big 6 or for publishing.
Just the opposite in fact.

As I’ve said on MWi many times, big ships are hard to turn. But below deck there’s a frenzy of activity long before anything is seen on the surface. And once they do turn they soon pick up speed.
Almost another year on, and the ship has turned.


According to Calvin Reid at Publisher’s Weekly the Digital Book World conference has just wound up with some contrite statements by the trad publishers:

A panel featuring executives form S&S, Random House, Little Brown, HarperCollins and Perseus, spent the morning issuing mea culpas (and highlighting current and planned correctives) over past “paternalistic” practices in dealing with their authors. Indeed there was a fair amount of discussion about whether authors should be called “partners,” “customers,” or “clients,” in an era when veteran authors and even emerging writers have viable alternatives to the traditional publishing contract.

Some quotes to savour with your morning coffee.:

“Publishers must treat authors as equal partners,” said Little, Brown’s Michael Pietsch, “We are offering a service to authors,” as the panelists also emphasized that it’s not always clear to authors, just what publishers do for them. “If authors are confused about what we do, we need to make it clear,” said Random House’s Madeleine MacIntosh. Joe Mangan of Perseus agreed, “communication is the key.”

Okay, us indies can indulge a smile at this belated turn-around by the trad-publishers, in the certain knowledge the success of indie-publishing has forced this change of attitude.

But let’s also be clear what it means:

The Big Six aren’t going to the wall anytime soon. While they spent the first half of 2011 publicly denouncing ebooks, and the second easing up on the rhetoric, they were all the time busily investing in the new world of ebooks.

And as the quotes above show, they can and do learn, and can and do change. Too little, too late? I don’t think so.


In future posts I’ll be returning to just what this means for indie publishing, and why indie writers should welcome rather than rue the return of the Big Six.

But for today, a word from our sponsor.

In past posts elsewhere I discussed how ebooks would be transformed by sponsorship these coming years, and that advertising within ebooks could and would happen, and that it needn’t be a bad thing. The suggestion had a mixed response at the time, from horrified to gleeful, but most seemed curious as to how it might work.

In fact some writers are already making it pay for them. For example, Olivia Lennox writes across many subjects, and tendered a post on library-lending and piracy which she thought might interest MWi readers.

Like most bloggers, I’m always on the look-out for guests and new material, so when Olivia emailed offering me a guest post I was of course all ears. But unlike 99% of bloggers, Olivia is a professional freelance journalist. Having been down that road myself in a past life I know that freelance does not mean giving away articles for free. Far from it! Which got me asking why any professional writer would want to write an article for an unpaid blog like MWi. It turns out Olivia makes part of her living by writing sponsored articles.

And it transpires this is a fine example of what we might expect in the future with ebook sponsorship, so I’m presenting Olivia’s article in its entirety. Further discussion follows after you’ve read Olivia’s post.

Will Piracy Kill Public eBook Libraries?

With the announcement that Penguin has pulled all its new books from e-lending in libraries due to ambiguously labelled “security issues” with digital copies, it’s clear to see piracy has reared its ugly head and leads to the question of whether eBook lending is ever going to take off if publishers are so concerned with “security issues”.

According to the Library Journal publication, there has been a 185% increase of eBooks being offered in public libraries across the country and this is a clear step towards a new type of library lending. With Amazon signing up their Kindle to 11,000 public libraries, it’s clear that the eBook really is an alternative to the traditional paperback, even for library users. Digital editions in libraries are a fantastic development and have the added bonus of no worries about late fees as once the time period of loan is up, the book is simply removed from your device. There’s absolutely no reason why you can’t curl up on your recliner sofa with your eReader just as easily as you could with a trusty old paperback.

However, with the Penguin group suspending all new eBooks from being made available to libraries in digital form and a complete ban on lending out eBooks to Amazon Kindle users; it is clear there’s a big underlying issue. The Penguin group cited “security concerns” as their reason for this action and this can only mean piracy. There has been no time frame given for the action so it could be a permanent decision although Penguin haven’t pulled their back catalog from the shelves, just new releases and of course, that complete unavailability for Amazon Kindle users.

Penguin aren’t the first publishing company to exercise caution when lending our their eBooks, in fact both Macmillan and Simon & Schuster have kept their entire catalog unavailable and HarperCollins have some very strict guidelines in place, with very stringent limitations on the number of times eBooks can be lent. With these publishers all considered high flyers in the industry, it’s a worry for eBook readers that they may not have access to some of the best books around.

What’s the problem with Amazon?

It seems Penguin have a problem with Amazon in particular, as they don’t like that library eBook lending is directly linked to Amazon. Across US libraries, the service used to lend Kindle eBooks is offered through OverDrive. Overdrive is an Ohio-based book lending company who provide services to over 10,000 schools and libraries in the USA and another 15,000 worldwide. In October, OverDrive began a deal with Amazon for lending eBooks to Kindle uses, promoting Kindle compatibility. As well as working with Kindle, OverDrive provide eBook lending in many other formats including those compatible with Apple and Android devices. Using OverDrive, users are about to loan DRM-protected eBooks which then expire when the lending period is up.

The problem with OverDrive and Kindle, is that the titles borrowed from their library appear in their Kindle account area and it’s from here the content can be delivered to your Kindle or Kindle app. This has irritated many publishers and a whole host of readers too as Amazon are seemingly acting as a storefront for all eBooks, whether you’ve used their site to purchase them or not.

The issue of eBook piracy

Publishers have voiced concerns regarding piracy and the digitalisation of books since their first creation and in fact, it’s very easy to see through multiple sites across the web that there are people out there offering thousands and thousands of eBooks for free via Torrent and other download sites. These sites sometimes even include books which have just been released, which is obviously to the detriment of the publishers. That being said, this has been an issue for music producers and record labels for decades now and so this isn’t really anything new, it’s just that the publishing industry is just being stung by it.

The issue of piracy and eBook lending is a bit more complex. There are many reasons that publishers may think lending increases the volume of piracy out there. Firstly, the number of different sources through which the digital content passes is a concern. Rather than being transferred from company to reader, a library eBook will pass through the library itself, an intermediary company such as OverDrive and then onto the reader, increasing the number of points at which it could be intercepted and copied. The second major area that concerns is to do with DRM protection. Unfortunately, there are tools readily available to remove this protection from eBooks and then they can be easily shared. With eBook lending, there is no purchase required so it only takes one talented hacker with a library card to slowly work their way through hundreds of books, making them readily available to download and keep for free.

eBook lending is a brilliant opportunity to spread the digitalisation of literature and books in general and is something that should be cherished not damned. Hopefully, publishers like Penguin will soon find a way to protect their content in such a way that means they are happy to make it readily available to all the digital bookworms out there.

Thanks, Olivia.

Piracy is of course the age-old excuse for inaction, and a nice little earner for those offering so-called anti-piracy services. But the fact is there are two types of pirates: The international pirates against whom we love to rant, though they cost us nothing, and the domestic pirates we prefer not to acknowledge, who actually cost us far, far more.

A reminder for now that most ebook piracy occurs in the USA, and that some of America’s biggest corporations profit from it daily and therefore have abolutely no reason to try prevent it. More on this in the near future here on MWi.

But back to sponsorship. The eagle-eyed among you will have spotted the link to a sofa company hidden away in the text. Now I have no idea what the arrangement is between them and Olivia (I would stress MWi has no connection with the company and uses this purely for ilustrative purposes) but what is clear is that this is a very unobtrusive way of advertising.

It’s a short step from a link like this in an article to a similar link in an ebook. For those not interested, just ignore it and read on. But if the link is to a product or brand the MC of the novel is constantly using, or to a location or event, then easy to see the potential here to attract an advertiser’s interest. And their money.

All the moreso if you think about how easy it would be to run paid adverts in the back of your ebook. I stress in the back, so they dont interfere with the reading experience.

Yes, I can hear the purists muttering about how this would never have happened in print. About how this is the thin end of the wedge.

Of course these same people wil happily read comics, magazines and newspapers, listen to radio and watch TV chock full of advertising. Many a print book in the past has carried paid ads.  And almost every print book carries ads from its own publisher. So get real. It’s gonna happen whether you like it or not.

I’ll return to the ways in which writers might benefit fr0m these developments in future posts. But for now, ponder Olivia’s article and answer this question honestly: Did the sponsored link in the post in any way detract from the quality of the artcle or the point it was making?




On Safari to Find THE READER – Elizabeth Ann West Is Armed And Dangerous

Fear not. Despite the title, this isn’t another foray into my private life here in sunny West Africa. It’s about the all important issue of finding readers.

This is a subject over which I find myself in constant e-conversation with fellow authors, and since we’ve moved into publishing other writers as well as ourselves, it’s  a matter that is constantly on our minds.

Of course there are no end of ways we can find readers, and there’s no right or wrong way. But some are most definitely better than others. Today’s guest, Elizabeth Ann West, has identified one really simple and rather elegant approach to marketing: Be genuine.

I’ll leave her to explain, but for the new author trying to establish a brand and be seen in the ocean of anonymity it’s a great idea, and it’s working well for her. In fact, let’s bring Elizabeth Ann West in now:

Sssssssh! I’m hunting for those elusive creatures everyone insists exists called READERS. If I can find some, I’m going to quickly flash them my brand, spankin’ new ebook before they disappear again. As a newly published author, it’s rather difficult to find readers. The advice to find them in their natural habitat varies.

Okay, it contradicts.

Recently, the web buzzed about Wendy Lawton’s “What’s Not Working?” As a new author, I read it voraciously, but quickly became confused. According to Wendy, blogging doesn’t work. Blog tours don’t work. Twitter doesn’t work. Facebook doesn’t work. Print ads do not work.

Mark Coker

Also published this weekend was Mark Coker’s informal poll on Mobileread of what readers identify as the #1 influence for them to buy an ebook. If the name sounds familiar, it’s because Mark is the founder of Guess what his poll of 206 responses found? Almost 30% of readers identified “Recommendations from fellow readers on online forums, blogs, and message boards.” Huh?

So I will find readers in the swamp AND the desert? That’s what the advice seems to say. However, I think the survey’s pie graph shows how little pockets of readers find ebooks in a variety of ways, and that’s why everyone’s marketing experiences are different.

So what is a new author to do? Be genuine. Yep, that simple. Pick a few ways to put yourself out there and be genuine in the interaction.

Networking with other authors. One of the biggest frustrated cries from people who claim blogs/social media don’t work is that we’re all just marketing to other authors. Yes, yes we are. And you know what? If you do that correctly, it’s NOT a bad thing. By building close relationships with other authors, you make friends that are willing to retweet your links without batting an eye. Friends who ask you to join their launch party of their new book with other authors in the Kindle Top 100 of their genre (yeah, happened to me without even asking!).

* * *

My little book with twenty copies sold in twelve days is going to rub elbows with titles by Terri Long, Karen Baney, and Tonya Kappes. All because I made a genuine friendship with Melissa Foster, who is releasing her third title, Come Back to Me, November 1st! I help everyone I can, and that’s how Melissa and I met online. My technical background for blogs and websites allowed me to help her on a new project: the WoMen’s Literary Cafe. I was excited to help because it’s a new site aimed at helping authors and bloggers to promote each other to readers, for free. I never expected anything in return, but when you help good people, they generally bring you along with them. It’s the only way we’re all going to make it!

Approaching reader blogs. Being genuine in your interactions with book bloggers is also important. As soon as a book blogger is put on a list as an indie book reviewer, the submissions pour in. Most of them are spammy, cold, form emails of an author flogging a book. I took the time to read sites, read the blogger’s About Me section and sent an email just thanking them for reviewing indie books and relating to some personal detail of the blogger. One had a toddler like I do. Another has a background in technical writing, and I used to volunteer for the Fedora documentation team.

Out of ten blogs I spent the time to get to know and write a personal email, three got right back to me. Two asked to review my book, and one told me she would let me know when her submissions open back up. That’s two more reviews than I had before I started!

Oh remember that networking with other authors? When I put out the call to make a book blog tour, author Melissa Foster also asked her book reviewers to give my book a look. And another four book bloggers were asking for review copies.

This posting here is because I asked for help and Mark Williams knew me from my regular visits to The Writer’s Guide to E-Publishing.

You really never know who’s watching you, so you should always be yourself and treat others with kindness.

Be consistent. Gone are the days where a self-published author is a novelty for readers. More and more readers know to look for the ebook bargains. My mother-in-law, who hates technology with a passion and doesn’t even email, wants an ereader. It’s no secret in marketing that it takes a number of exposures to a brand or product for a customer to buy. For ebooks, this is even more true. Our customers don’t HAVE to buy us right away, we’re always available. One book blog can spark a reader to download a sample and that’s as far as the purchase goes until ANOTHER ad or author interview reminds the reader about the book. Oh yeah, I was going to finish that!

My own reader habits with my Nook are that way. I prune my samples on a weekly basis and buy what I like and delete what didn’t grab me. As a writer, I bet if you examined your own book buying behavior, you’d be a lot closer to those well-camouflaged readers!

So what about you, Mark Williams International readers? What are YOUR marketing best practices? And better yet, what part of marketing your book is fun for you? (I love responding to reader comments! After my free promotion with my first author interview one of the downloaders tweeted she was up until 1 AM reading my book. That makes my day!)

And rightly so!

Elizabeth Ann West describes herself as a Jane-of-all-trades, mistress to none. A military wife and Mom, she has previously published non-fiction articles. This year, she published her debut novel, CANCELLED. It’s available on, and in all other major ebook formats. You can check her out at, where just this past week she was talking about Sibel Hodge’s faction novel Trafficked, and how being an indie writer opens up hitherto closed opportunities as a writer.

As Elizabeth says, she and I e-met over on WG2E, and since then she has joined us at MWiDP in the hope we can bring her book some extra exposure this side of the Atlantic. Time will tell. I suspect she’ll gain far more traction in the immediate future with the WoMen’s Literary Cafe, which sounds just wonderful. I’m hoping Melissa Foster will come and tell us more here at MWi in due course.

But what really comes from reading Elizabeth’s essay above is the need for writers to network on a genuine and friendly basis.

Which is part of the idea behind the cloud that is (or will be – early days yet) MWiDP.

What we’re beginning to see happen is MWiDP authors joining together and share the burden – not just marketing (retweeting, exchanging blog posts, recommending, offering reviews and all importantly reading the books and telling others you enjoyed them), but also in the pre-publication stages. Joining with other authors, proofreading for one another, offering critiques to one another, offering help and advice. Exchanging links and info about format and cover designers. Even joining up and co-writing!

This sort of team work is something pretty unique to indie writers. Can you imagine Big Six authors linking up with fellow writers in this way? It just ain’t gonna happen. You might like to think that by having a Big Six publisher you have the support of a team of  experts who will do their best for you. But that’s not always true. The only people who get involved will be on the payroll. They have a vested interest in maintaining things how they want them. If you have other ideas for your book you’re going to be sorely disappointed.

The corporate gatekeepers have strict control over what goes in and who gets involved. Which is fair enough if they’re footing the bill, I guess. But dont assume that means they know what they’re doing.

Here just to remind ourselves ninety per cent of corporate published books fail. Ninety per cent never sell a thousand copies, despite all that expertise, all those professionals, and all that money and muscle.

And maybe that’s because readers don’t really care for ninety per cent of what the trad guys publish. Because most of it is dull, unimaginative and predictable.

I’m over at WG2E today today discussing just this.

If you’re one of those the-glass-is-half-empty types worried that the trad publishers are going to bully, bribe and bluster their way back to a  monopoly on what people read, be sure to pop over to WG2E and see why that’s not going to happen. As ever, MWi and WG2E are here to inspire, not depress. If you want depressing, read an agent’s blog…

Stay positive!

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