Findaway Voices: Part 2

I am back with more! I’m sure you’re very excited. ūüėČ If you missed the previous post in this series, Findaway Voices: Part 1 talks about how to start the process of getting an audiobook into production. Here, I’ll go into more detail about how the proofing and approving works.

So, at this point, you’ve crossed all the Ts, dotted all the Is, submitted all the forms and contracts, and now your producer has the book as well as your notes. And off we go!

FIRST 15 MINUTES SAMPLE

Once you submit your notes, the producer records the first 15 minutes of your book for proofing. This is where those notes come in handy. You’ll have a chance to listen to the sample and make comments, corrections, and requests on it before live production begins. Here is where you check that your character voices sound the way you want them to, that the tone and pacing are good, that there are no dead spots, missing words/sentences, etc. Whatever notes you provide here is what will guide production going forward, so be clear, address everything that needs to be changed, and be specific, down to the time stamp.

Also, the comments you make go directly to the producer, so you can discuss issues if necessary. If corrections are needed, the producer will re-record the first 15 minutes so you can proof again, until you are satisfied with the sample and ready to move forward.

No matter what you say in the comments on this recording, you’ll need to give your final approval directly to Findaway Voices, not the producer. Production will not and should not move forward until they get an email from you saying you approved.

PRODUCTION AND PROOFING

Here, I have to confess something: I think I did this step wrong. At least, I’m not sure I didn’t get ahead of myself, but it was less stressful for me this way, so I’m going to say it was fine. The contract stipulates that once your book is fully recorded, you have one week to give your final notes/approval. If they don’t hear from you, they assume you approve and move on to send you the production bill. This was terrifying to me, because I knew my book would be long and, with a full time job, I was worried I wouldn’t make that 1-week deadline.

My producer ended up uploading the chapters in batches. Each chapter is its own separate file, so it’s not all one big massive audio. I wasn’t notified of the uploads, but I was checking my account almost every day so I was able to see them and proof them along the way. I though that was how it worked.

Here, the proofing works the same as with the 15-minute sample. You’ll want to be specific about your notes, and those notes go directly to your producer. They also disappear when a revised recording is uploaded.

Note: Only certain things can be changed at this point. If it’s something that should have been addressed in the first 15-minute sample, your producer is under no obligation to comply with your editing request.

My producer was amazing about making any necessary corrections, and as we got to the end, she asked me if it was okay to “Approve” on her end. Apparently, that’s what triggers the system to let authors know the book is ready for proofing in the first place.

I got the email notification within seconds, telling me I now had 10 days to proof the book. But since I’d already done all that, I just had to go in and submit the final recording. I then received a confirmation that the recordings were accepted and being processed for production.

FINALIZING AND PAYMENT

That second email notification also directed me to the next step, which was filling out and/or updating the metadata. All of this is available to complete before and during production, but I’m always hesitant to slap on a firm release date when I don’t know how long it’ll be before it’s all finalized, so I saved this step for last. There were required fields for author names, narrator names, ISBNs, release dates, pricing… the usual. The pricing is all up to you, so you can set it, or change it at any time, and they do provide some rough guidelines for people (like me) who have no clue how to price an audiobook. It’s generally based on the length, but it gives you some overlap and wiggle room to determine your own price.

On the next page, you approve the distribution channels. Here, you can choose where you want your audiobook to be sold. You can choose all of them, some of them, or none of them (as far as I know). I chose all of them and confirmed my selection, which then sent me to the final step: Payment.

The payment screen is pretty much the same as it would be on any online store. You choose your payment method, enter your information, and submit. Be forewarned, it will be a hefty sum, so make sure you’re using a card or account that won’t overdraw. And check to make sure the payment went through, as well. My bank flagged the transaction and I had to manually approve it before the funds were released. I kind of expected that to happen, though, so I was able to do it right away, and this entire process of finalizing and payment took maybe 15 minutes total.

Just to be doubly sure, I set my release date a couple of weeks in the future so I would have time to make corrections if any were necessary, but¬† everything seems to be in order now, so I’m just going to sit back and watch it go live. ūüôā

So there you have it. This is how you get your book narrated through Findaway Voices. ūüôā

3-1-trw-postcardIf you found this post helpful, I hope you’ll take a moment to check out the book this series of posts was about.¬†The Royal Wizard¬†is now available as an eBook and paperback world wide and will be officially released as an audiobook narrated by Rachel Hine on August 30, 2018!

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Let’s Talk About Piracy

This morning, I woke up with a fun, catchy song in my head. I was in a good mood, ready to tackle the day, and then I logged onto Facebook. I write this for both authors and readers, because I’d be remiss if I didn’t address it on this website. It may end up a bit ranty (there may be profanity, too), but I hope you’ll forgive that. Every time this particular topic comes up, it feels like death by a million paper cuts with a bonus lemon juice bath. I hope you’ll read it, anyway.

For the sake of not making this go viral, I won’t post the image that completely ruined my good mood, but I do want to address the subject of book piracy.¬†Everyone loves a freebie, right? There’s no harm in downloading just one book, right? It’s just a drop in the bucket for authors who make money hand over fist, anyway, and after all, it’s just¬†one book.

The way I see it, piracy happens for one of two reasons: ignorance, or entitlement and apathy. The former is fairly easy to dismantle with just a bit of accurate (if painful) information. The latter, not so much. So let’s talk…


“But it’s just one book. I give away my paperbacks all the time. I paid for it, it’s mine. Who the hell are you to tell me what to do with something I paid for?”

You’d think the vehemence was exaggerated. It’s not. But here’s what many people don’t know, or consciously realize:

Print books and eBooks are not the same. A printed book is one copy of the product. Very cumbersome to replicate by copying or scanning, and why bother when you can just buy another one fairly cheap? eBooks are digital files–tiny ones at that, just a few kilobytes, all told. It takes two seconds to upload an eBook to a server and make it public. That eBook will live there¬†forever and can be downloaded¬†countless times by¬†countless people, all of whom will have the ability to send a copy on to¬†countless other people without losing access to the original. Printed books have a shelf life. eBooks don’t. That means there is literally¬†no limit to how many people can get illegal copies them.

Here’s what that means for the author: Hundreds and thousands, sometimes tens of thousands of dollars of lost royalties. In many cases, that’s a full-time income the author has just lost. Literally, a livelihood stolen right out from under them. And no, I am not exaggerating. In recent years, I have lost count of the number of authors I have seen hang up their writing hats because they just¬†can’t afford it anymore. Many of them had to go back to seeking full time jobs, which is never easy, especially after you’ve been out of the workforce for a while.

To a reader just looking to pass the time, that one eBook is a few hours of entertainment. To its author, it’s hundreds of hours of work, not just writing it, but promoting it as well. It’s an on-going, full time job. Yes, we do it for the love of writing–for ourselves. But when we share it with the world, it becomes a product. It costs money to put it out there, and it needs to generate revenue, or it’s not worth continuing.


“How is it entitlement if I just want to read and can’t afford the books?? You should be grateful someone reads your books at all.”

I’m going to pause here for a moment to take a deep breath and master my emotions. Okay. First of all, that is the definition of entitlement. You can’t afford it? But authors should be able to afford to give away their livelihoods for free? You can’t afford it, so it’s okay to steal? No. It’s not okay. I’m sorry for your personal circumstances that prevent you from being able to buy a book you really, really want to read, but that does not make it okay for you to steal a copy. There are these things called¬†libraries where they actually make books available for free. They buy them on your behalf, so the author doesn’t have to skip a meal, and then loan them to you for a time so you can enjoy the stories without having to shell out a dime. There are these things called¬†book sales where authors make their books available at a much lower cost, or even free, where you can grab a copy totally guilt-free.

It just so happens, I currently have two of these floating around:

Catch Me is FREE at Smashwords until 7.31.2018, so feel free to check it out. Click the title, or the image to go directly to the Smashwords product page. If you feel adventurous, book 2 of this series is also discounted until the end of July.

Function:L1VE is FREE permanently at every eBook store except for Amazon. You’re welcome to download that one as well, as many times as you like.

See how this works? I, the author, make this book available to the reader and invite them to download from a legitimate bookseller. I’m far from the only one. All you have to do is go to Smashwords, set your filter to FREE and you’ll find hundreds, thousands of free titles right there for your enjoyment.

“How’s that any different?” you ask.¬†Here’s how:

When a library purchases a book, it’s a sale for the author. They get paid for that. When they discount their own book, it’s their choice as a marketing strategy. Even free downloads (if they’re legitimate) can help an author’s career. Those downloads are tracked; they affect the book’s ratings and visibility. The higher it is on the ranking list, the higher the chance others will want to buy a copy, and authors get paid for that, too. Pirate sites, on the other hand, do none of that. They’re basically a black hole of nothing for the author.

As for being grateful, please excuse the profanity, but in this case, there is really no other way I know to reply, except to say, “Fuck you.” That is all the answer you deserve for even thinking something like that about an author who puts their heart and soul into a book, much less saying it aloud,¬†to their face. So, at the risk of being redundant, I say again: Fuck. You.


“I just want to check out the author first to see if I like them. I don’t want to shell out money on a no-name and end up hating the book. I’ll buy a legit copy if I like it!”

It may surprise you to hear this, but this is not actually a valid reason for pirating a book. Authors and stores go to great lengths to give you every opportunity to check out a book before you buy. If you don’t look at the sample, that’s on you. That’s you deliberately choosing to turn a blind eye to the legitimate option in favor of piracy. It may also surprise you to hear that those “no-name” authors you are so eager to sample are the ones who are hurt by piracy the most, because they depend on their royalty income the most. They don’t have a solid readership to keep them afloat, or side income from book merch, or movie or TV series rights. They literally depend on every single penny they get from royalties.

It may seem innocent, but this is just another form of entitlement. “I should be able to read it first and then decide if it’s worth paying for.” Well, no. The very fact that you do want to read it first means it’s worth paying for. You don’t go to a restaurant and say, “Serve me first, and if I like it, I’ll pay for my meal.” You don’t go to a store and say, “Let me wear this T-shirt for a few weeks, and then I’ll decide whether it’s worth paying for.” For that matter, no movie theater in the world will let you in to watch a movie without buying a ticket first. eBooks are no different. If you pirate one, no matter how you justify your decision to do so, you are¬†stealing. You are supporting a system that robs authors blind. There is nothing you can say that will ever make that acceptable.


“Holy crap, this is really awful! I hate that my favorite authors have to go through this. How can I help?”

Now that is the right response. ūüôā Thank you. I mean that sincerely. You’d be surprised how good it is to hear that someone out there actually cares, and even wants to help. If you really want to help your favorite authors, buy their books. That’s all. Don’t look for them on pirate sites. If you happen across one, or someone sharing a link to one, report the person and tell the author. It’s not easy, but there are steps authors can take to curb piracy–if they know about it. Tell people about your favorite books and when you do, tell them where they can be bought. Share with your friends when you see an author has a sale or promotion going on. It helps both the author, and the readers who might otherwise balk at paying full price.

Authors are not unsympathetic, believe me. Many of them will go to great lengths to get books into the hands of their struggling readers. But please realize we’re human, too. We have families, and mortgages, and medical bills, and this is not a hobby. It’s our job. We work at it non-stop, without breaks, vacations, and often times without support or encouragement. We do our jobs well, and we shouldn’t have to justify our need to get paid for it.

Thank you for your time.

The Hard Truth About Self-Publishing

The conversation I saw went roughly like this:

Indie Author: Everyone so concerned about Amazon removing reviews… They’re doing it to remove fake reviews. Reviews should come from strangers, not from your friends.

Other Indie Authors: You’re missing the point. They’re removing legitimate reviews for no reason and with no notice.

Indie Author: If Indies are so worried about Amazon, they should start their own Indie platform. You gotta spend money to make money. You should be doing ads to get more sales like I do.

Other Indie Authors: Dude, most Indies don’t have that kind of money.

Indie Author: Ha ha, then they should get a job. I figured a lot of people would disagree. You guys just don’t get it.

I’m still waiting for an explanation of what this “it” is supposed to be that Indies aren’t getting and a manual on how to do it “the right way.” I don’t think one will be forthcoming.

So let’s look at some facts, stats, and numbers from an AuthorEarnings¬†and WorldOMeters report to see why Indies might not be getting the sales their books deserve, or why their net royalties might be less than they expected…

  • As of Feb 2017, Amazon accounts for¬†82% of English Language eBook purchases
  • Indie Publishing accounts for¬†34% of the U.S. market
  • Comparing Indies with Big 5 authors,¬†91% of Indie sales come from Amazon (this includes KDP Select exclusive), versus¬†70% for Big 5 authors
  • Amazon-exclusive authors are earning more dollars than widely-published authors earn at all non-Amazon retailers combined (this includes scammers, however)
  • As of April 2017, the per-page payout from Kindle Unlimited was $0.00488/page. At this rate…
    • A 250-page book would earn a royalty of $1.22.
    • Compare that to the same eBook selling as a stand-alone title at $2.99 and 70% royalty rate where the author would earn $2.09.
    • At $3.99, that royalty would be $2.79
  • In 2010,¬†328,259 new titles were released in the U.S. alone. That’s almost¬†900¬†new titles every day, and that number has likely grown since then

Where you publish matters. How you publish matters. But even if you do everything right, with proper formatting, a professional cover, several weeks on Pre-Order, and a vigorous marketing push through various outlets, that last statistic alone is a staggering hurdle to overcome.

On any given day, your new release is competing for attention with about 1,000 titles. The next day, it’s 2,000, and the day after that, 3,000. This is just to stay¬†visible at all, much less in any significant capacity. Authors who don’t have the backing of a Big 5 publisher are essentially tiny plankton particles floating around in an ocean filled with other plankton, pollution, and lots of much bigger creatures, all of which make them pretty much invisible without either a massive, pre-established audience, or a hefty advertising budget (and the expertise to make it work).

Believe me, every single Indie author out there with at least one book release under their belt is aware of the factors affecting their (lack of) sales. Every single one of them knows (or should know) that writing is art, but publishing is business, and it takes money to make money. The problem is, the vast majority of them don’t have the initial capital necessary to invest in that business. Many of them have limited resources to work with, and they often choose to spend those resources on making a quality product.

Here’s the problem with the publishing business: Quality is no longer the determining factor in book sales. It doesn’t matter how amazing your book is if no one ever gets to find out about it. It doesn’t matter if you have the most beautiful cover in the world if no one ever sees it. It’s not the best Indie authors who get the sales, it’s the ones with the cleverest advertising strategy and/or questionable ethics.

Here’s the other problem with the book industry: Publishing is expensive–for the author.¬†Everyone takes a cut, everything costs something, and those costs add up fast, especially when the pressure is so intense to price books lower or free.

Helpful hint: If you give your product away for free, you’re not making any income. If you invested any money into its production, that money is now a net loss. If those hundreds of downloaded freebies don’t lead to sales of your other books, you’re dead in the water on that front, and right back at square one. Yet authors have been told to price their books free for so long, it’s now not only accepted, but expected as a standard practice.

Bottom line: Telling someone they need to invest more into their book business is like telling a drowning man he just needs to swim harder.

If you’re financially successful as an author, kudos. You earned it, and I’m happy for you. But don’t put down those who are struggling daily to make a go of their dream. That just makes you a jerk.

If you’re out there, making sacrifices, losing sleep, losing friends, ignoring loved ones, and hustling every free moment you have to not only write your books, but make sure they’re seen, you have my most humble respect. I see your struggle. I share it. I wish I had a winning strategy to share with you, but I don’t. All I can do is share what I know in the hopes that it’ll help someone else.

No one ever said it would be easy, but I don’t think any of us ever expected it to be this ridiculously hard. Stick with it, anyway. Write your heart out, give your book the strongest wings you can, and then let it fly. Your words are your legacy to the world. They deserve to be shared, and they deserve to be enjoyed.

I love you, fellow Indies! ‚̧

 

Findaway Voices: Part 1

Hello again!

I’ve been working hard on all things book-related lately, but wanted to do another step-by-step post for Findaway Voices the way I did for IngramSpark to outline the process for anyone interested to see how it works in action. I chose Findaway Voices for a few reasons:

They’re not Amazon. I know that sounds petty, but it’s something I’ve thought about a great deal. Don’t get me wrong, Amazon has been a pioneer of self-publishing, and they deserve credit and praise for that, but I have big issues with their business model and royalty structures in certain areas. Their ACX program might still work for you, and is a perfectly legitimate option. I just made a personal decision to go with a different company.

They let you control production and distribution. This should be a given, but it’s still nice that you can choose where to distribute, where not to, whether to distribute at all, and still have the option of selling the audiobooks yourself. You also have full pricing control (as opposed to ACX, which sets prices for you, based on length), and you can even upload your own ready-made audiobook, bypassing the production stage to go directly to distribution.

They have a working relationship with Smashwords. Logistically, this makes sense for me, since my eBooks are distributed through Smashwords already. The process of transferring over to Findaway Voices is literally a couple of clicks, and the usual setup fee is waived, which is always nice.

I went with my fantasy book as my first audiobook experiment, because it felt like the most natural choice. The setup process was fairly simple, since all the metadata got transferred over automatically from Smashwords, and all I had to add was the square cover image and ISBN number. Findaway Voices has an option to let them assign the ISBN number for you, but since I have a whole bunch of my own, I just used mine.

Here’s what happened next…

BOOK QUESTIONNAIRE

The first thing you do when starting from scratch is fill out the first questionnaire. This was the most difficult part for me, because it’s not just about providing a synopsis. They ask very specific questions about how you want your audiobook to sound. Do you want a male or female narrator? British or American accent? What is the general tone and feel of the book? What are your characters like? The more detail you provide in this stage, the better they’ll¬† be able to match you to the right narrator, so it’s important that you actually¬†know what you want your audiobook to sound like. This may be easier for those who already listen to and are familiar with audiobooks. I wasn’t. While I could hear in my head how my characters sounded, I found it difficult to put into words on paper.

AUDITIONS

Once you submit your questionnaire, it takes about a week for Findaway Voices to collect a variety of producer files for you to listen to. I got about 10 producers to choose from, and each one had 3-4 previews from various books in different genres. This is where you listen for what you want to hear. Not every voice will appeal. Not every tone and style will fit your narrative. Take your time and listen to all of them before you start the elimination process. If none of the voices appeal to you, there is a handy button you can click to request more samples. If you find one or more that you like, you can move on to the next step: requesting an audition. I found two in the very first batch of producers that sounded like they’d fit the book I had chosen, and I requested an audition from both of them.

An audition is a 5-10 minute excerpt narrated from your own book, so you can hear how it’ll sound. It takes about another week or so for the producers to record the audition, and there is no obligation during this process to contract with anyone–yet. That’ll come later. The main purpose of all this is to find the right producer for your book. If you don’t, no problem. You can cancel at any time. You’re also not interfacing with the producers directly until the actual production begins, so there’s no hard feelings on either side.

BOOKING

The next step is the actual booking. Each audition is accompanied with a “book for production” button that lets you indicate the producer of your choice. Until you click that button, you still have access to all the samples from the producers you hadn’t chosen, as well as the option to request more. You still haven’t committed to anything yet. Once you click that button, Findaway Voices takes over. They contact the producer, confirm their rates (if you see a lower rate in auditions than what ends up on the contract, the producer will honor the lower rate), and draft the contract. The contract will spell out the terms and tell you the per-finished-hour rate, the estimated completion date, and all the other things you’ll want to read carefully before signing. It basically says the audiobook will be created in the stated time frame, barring an act of God event like illness or injury that prevents the producer from completing the project. It also tells you when you’ll be billed for production, and what rights and options you’ll have at the very end, in terms of ownership and distribution.

PRODUCTION NOTES

Now it gets interesting. While the entire process up to this point was easy and enjoyable, this may be the thing I loved best about it. Once all the contracts are signed and dated, Findaway Voices sends you a more in-depth questionnaire about your book. Here, you go into details about the book to give the producer directions on how it should sound. It covers everything from the tone and pacing, to pronunciation guides, character descriptions, and any other notes not covered. It’s very in-depth and addresses every detail I was worried about from the start. This one document put my mind completely at ease. Again, you’re still not interfacing with the producer directly. All of this is going through Findaway Voices first, and they pass it on to the producer.

The form is also accompanied by additional documents that give you an overview of the process of production and proofing. It tells you how to use the commenting section, what things to listen for, and what things will and will not be fixed once production begins. It’s a great preparation for the next step.

Once this is submitted, the ball gets rolling and the hard work begins. My next post will outline how the proofing/approval process works. ūüôā Stay tuned!

3-1-trw-postcardIf this is your first time on my blog, and you’d like to know more about this book being narrated on audio, check out more information and listen to a small sample of the audiobook on the book’s page at my author website:¬†¬†The Royal Wizard.¬†It’s now available as an eBook and paperback world wide!

 

Update: Publica

Hullo boys and girls, Alianne checking in again all quick-like because this was too good not to share. Remember this post where I talked about the new kid on the block, Publica? Well, I’m signed up for their newsletter and one of their most recent ones announced that they are looking for authors to publish their books through their systems now. Ground floor entry, if you have a book ready to release this year. For now, the process is to fill out an interest form here, and they’ll contact you with additional info if you’re chosen.

If you’re still not convinced, or if you’re as confused about the entire process as I was, check out the video below, which explains the technology in very simple terms. Hint: Pay very close attention to the resale capabilities, where readers can resell their copy of your book to others, and you get a percentage of that sale.

As authors, we’re always looking for new readers, but as self-publishers, we also have to look for better ways to sell our books. Call me a bright-eyed idealist, but I think this may be it. ūüôā

Opinion: Addressing the Chaos

There’s been a lot of stuff happening in the book world recently that’s kind of sort of turning things inside out and upside down. It’s big enough that it warrants a post (warning: it’ll be long), so I’m going to address two things I’ve seen floating around: #Cockygate and the recent blunder by Amazon. But first, a disclaimer: Everything in this post is my observation and opinion. I will not be linking external sources because I trust that those who want to know more will find ample sources all on their own, and I don’t want to add to the viral nature of this mess. Basically, I’m chiming in, but urging everyone to do their own homework and not take my word for it.

So here we go…

Continue reading

Why Self-Published Authors Are Amazing

If you’re following my blog, you’ve seen me post some rants about this or that. I do it to air out my own personal grievances, but also to shed some light on current events happening in the book world. Cathartic and educational. Win-win.

But today, I want to do something different. Today I want to tip my hat and give a nod to every self-published author out there, because the Indie community is a truly amazing and humbling place. Yes, it has its problems–all communities do–but on the whole, its members are some of the kindest, bravest, most supportive, most intelligent people I’ve ever had the pleasure of meeting.

Too often, the label of “Indie author” or “self-published author” still evokes the unfair stigma of being sub par, unworthy when compared to authors on the other side of that gilded line of traditional publishing. Today, I want to show you why that is just not true. I want to show you that Self-Published Authors are…

…Creative

It goes without saying that writing a story takes massive amounts of creativity, no matter how that story gets published. But the creativity of a self-published author goes beyond the story to everything around it. There are authors who make their own book covers, create their own marketing campaigns, even manufacture their own giveaway swag. The beauty of self-publishing is that there are no limits or restrictions on what we can do.

…Resourceful

When there’s no one to keep you on the straight and narrow, you have to forge your own way. That includes learning as you go, figuring out how things are done, and finding resources to do it. Publishing is an expensive business, and rare is the author with more than a shoestring budget. That makes self-published authors very good at forging mutually beneficial relationships, finding the best deals, and the least expensive (yet still just as effective) tools.

…Supportive

On the whole, self-published authors tend to view each other as colleagues, not competitors. They network, share recommendations, offer support, guidance, and encouragement, and even help each other promote each other’s books. What other industry do you know of where this is the norm?

…Entrepreneurial

Regardless of the way your books get out there, as soon as they do, you officially become a small business owner. But for self-published authors, that definition goes deeper and far wider. They are in charge of it all, from editing to intellectual rights management, and everything in between and beyond. That means an Indie author is a writer, a publisher, an accountant, a PR guru, and a public figure all at the same time. That’s a lot of hats to wear. But don’t they look fabulous?

…Trailblazers

Bypassing the traditional publisher gauntlet allows self-published authors to bring fresh, new ideas straight to the reader. They are on the bleeding edge of fiction, inventing and defining new genres, and bringing us amazing stories publishers never knew readers have been yearning for.

…Trend-setters

By virtue of necessity, self-published authors have to look beyond what¬†is to what¬†is possible. Being unfettered by a set of house rules, they are free to explore the possibilities, take risks, and discover new ways of doing things–and they share their discoveries with each other, and with traditionally published authors, as well.¬† They open doors few people knew even existed–including self-publishing itself.¬†Let’s give credit where credit is due: A great many Indie authors chose this path not because they were rejected by publishers, but because they never wanted that approval in the first place. And many others chose to leave their publishers for the express purpose of publishing independently. This is not the course of last resort detractors would have you believe it is.

…Generous

Self-published authors have the freedom and opportunity to do things traditionally published authors simply cannot do. They can share as much of their new releases for “preview” as they like; set their own pricing to super low, even free; and give away as many book copies to as many people as tickle their fancy. In fact, the community is known for this more than anything else.

…Approachable

The great thing about bypassing the middleman (publishing house) is that it brings self-published authors in direct contact with their readers. Their success is directly dependent not just on how well they write, but how well they interact with their readers, which makes Indies the most welcoming and approachable of authors online, as well as in person.

…Nonconformists

Sometimes, rules are in place to protect the wrong interests. Sometimes, those rules need to be broken, and self-published authors aren’t afraid to band together, take a stand, and make their voices heard for the good of the whole ecosystem. Indies changed the face of the industry in a matter of a handful of years, and while publishing houses are still scrambling to adapt, Indies aren’t finished yet.

…Professional Storytellers

Emphasis on¬†professional. That little detail tends to be conveniently overlooked whenever someone trash talks self-published authors. Are there bad apples in the bunch? Absolutely. The same is true for traditionally published authors. But look at the talents that, against all odds, had broken through every barrier, hit the bestseller lists and taken off like one of Elon Musk’s rockets.¬†That is the standard all Indies are striving for. On the whole, when everything else is stripped away, an author is a story teller at heart, and their passion is to tell the best story they possibly can. The best part about self-published authors is that their story will be all their own, unfiltered, uncensored, and free of any cookie cutter standardization.

And for all these reasons…

If you haven’t read an Indie book, I highly recommend you give them a try. You may be pleasantly surprised. ūüėČ

Smashwords Partners With Findaway Voices

On March 21st, Smashwords announced it was partnering with Findaway Voices to help their Indie authors with the beginning stages of audiobook production. In the blog post, Mark Coker shared the basics of the partnership and his observations on how audiobooks are a growing market and a new opportunity for a wider audience for Indie authors.

It was all great news. What the blog post didn’t share, however, were some additional details I later found in this Forbes article where Mark Coker contributed an interview.

Here’s the deets:

Continue reading

The Amazon Vise Cinches Tighter

Don’t worry, this won’t be a rant, or an Indie self-pity post. My aim is only to present my observations. A couple of days ago, a fellow Indie author sent me a private message with a link to a blog post talking about Amazon’s latest hijinks. I didn’t think much of it at the time, since I was still half out of my head with the flu, but then I slept on it, and slept on it some more, and the more I thought about it the more it bothered me.

Take a look at the two images below. See if you can spot a difference:

I’ll give you a hint: Look at the green text in the Buy New box. See it?

The first picture is of the original edition of my paperback novel, published through CreateSpace. The second is the newest edition published through IngramSpark. And the two images together illustrate Amazon’s latest policy to disrupt the supply and demand equation to skew it in their own favor. Since they are both print-on-demand, there is literally no difference between a CS and IS book purchase, other than Amazon makes more money on the CS one. But the different ways they are displayed could make a huge difference in which version (if any) a reader will choose to buy.

It preys on a customer’s need for instant gratification

Amazon has built their very successful business model on two things, one of which is their ability to deliver your purchases faster and cheaper than any other retailer. By slapping on a notice that effectively tells shoppers they will have to wait longer for their copy of the book, they are creating an instant subconscious disappointment and dissatisfaction in the product before the customer has even had a chance to get it.

It creates an artificial sense of scarcity

Amazon’s second cornerstone of business is unrivaled levels of inventory. Amazon is Aladdin’s cave of wonders. They have anything and everything, and they have boatloads of it for people to buy. That’s what keeps shoppers coming back. The new notice on the product page sends the message that this particular item is out of stock, which inadvertently reflects badly on the publisher (in this case, the self-published author) for failing to anticipate demand.

It creates unfair competition

Okay, to be fair, this is Amazon’s own store, and they have every right to try to put their own products forward as best as they can. It’d be stupid of them not to. But it goes much deeper than that. Think about it. Amazon now has the largest piece of the market pie when it comes to books and eBooks. Every measure they have taken so far has been aimed to solidify their stronghold on that market share, or to increase it. They do it through exclusivity, through undercutting competitor prices (seriously, their ToS flat-out state that if you publish a book on Amazon, the price has to be equal to or smaller than at any other retailer), and through policies and algorithms that create advantages for those who play along, and massive hurdles for those who don’t. With this new measure, they are basically saying, “If you want to actually sell your self-published print volumes, you need to publish them through us.” This is why other bookstores don’t want to play with you, Amazon.

So where does that leave Indie authors? 

Between a rock and a hard place.

Once again, we are forced to either straddle the fence, or make a difficult choice between going wide, and going deep. If you publish through CreateSpace alone, odds are good your book will never be stocked on store shelves, because no store will want to buy product from their direct competitor. If you choose to publish through a different service, such as IngramSpark, your chances of getting a book into physical stores might be slightly better, but now it’ll have to jump through hoops on Amazon, which is still the biggest bookseller and generates the highest royalties income of all other retailers for most authors.

Nothing says you can’t do both. In fact, the blog I read advised just that: Publish your book both through IngramSpark and CreateSpace, and then contact Amazon and tell them to source the book through CreateSpace so it always shows as in stock.

But I have a problem with this strategy. It as good as flushes a chunk of the money you invested into an IngramSpark distribution down the toilet. It’s like you’re saying, “Hey, I spent a boatload to get these books published through this other source, but you guys don’t like it, so that’s cool. I’m just not gonna advertise those editions where I am most likely to get the greatest number of sales for them. Still friends? Sweet.”

Yeah, I’m stubborn, and not much of a team player (which is probably why I will never make any real money from book sales…). I deliberately priced my IngramSpark editions slightly lower to play Amazon’s algorithms so that the new versions would show up on top. I did this, because I want those gorgeous new covers to show up in search results. I didn’t want all that effort, months and months of hard work, to drop into obscurity. But I’m also not an idiot, and I am keeping an eye on this new development and making sure to let my readers know 2 things loud and clear:

(1) My books are absolutely 100% available at Amazon, and there is 0% difference in shipping & handling time between the CreateSpace and IngramSpark versions; and

(2) Those same books can also be found at other retailers, often times at a discount that might be a better deal than Amazon.

A Potential New Player(?)

By now, everyone has heard of Bitcoin. Bitcoin is all the rage. For a few days in January, even the news reported on the massive spike in value of Bitcoin, and Warren Buffet came out with a statement predicting its downfall (article here). To be honest, I rarely pay attention to the stock market, and I was only aware of the concept of Bitcoin in the vaguest possible way of it being a “fake currency.” Well, when that article came out, I started paying attention. I found a few more, read up on it a bit, with most of what I found going way over my head, but what I retained was this:

Bitcoin is like an apple tree. It’s one of several different kinds of trees, that just happens to have grown the biggest. But all those trees are rooted in a framework that is very,¬†very¬†interesting to me. It’s essentially a new system of virtual accounting that adds a third entry to the standard double-entry style of bookkeeping. That’s already confusing, so let’s break it down:

In traditional accounting, every time money changes hands, two entries have to be made in the books. The first is the money going out, and the second is something else coming in. That way, there is always a record of how much money is being spent and what it’s being spent on. In this new way of accounting, the third entry marks the transaction, which adds additional details. It’s not just what was bought and for how much, it’s who bought it, when, and where. As long as the purchased item stays within this realm, this record keeping then continues down the line each time it changes hands, so you can track a particular item from its most recent buyer all the way back to the production facility, and farther back to the facilities where all its different components and ingredients came from. It essentially records the total life of that item.

As soon as I read this, it hit me that this could potentially be the solution all authors have been waiting for: an end to digital piracy. If every single eBook were to be tracked this way, then every single pirated eBook could be tracked back to the original pirate. Not only that, the system could identify every single pirated copy and there is a lot we could do with that info, starting with disabling those copies and making them unreadable, and ending with having hard evidence for prosecution.

Fast forward about a month. I received an email newsletter from IngramSpark, telling me they will be featured as an exhibitor at the San Francisco Writer’s Conference. Since that’s in my neck of the woods, I checked out the event, browsed through the exhibitors, and found something I never heard of before. I clicked the link, and discovered that someone out there had the same thought I did, and is actually putting it into practice. There is this platform called¬†Publica, which doesn’t seem to be open to authors just yet, but will be soon. It is built on, and will operate on the concept of cryptocurrency (like Bitcoin), and promises the elimination of the middleman, taking an author’s books directly to the reader.

Of course, in practice, that just makes Publica another self-publishing platform. It’s still questionable whether they would be able to compete with Amazon, Barnes & Noble and other eBook platforms, and I still have a lot of unanswered questions. I submitted those questions to them, and am waiting for a response but, if I understand this correctly, and if it actually works, then I want in. Now.

The concept of this new system of accounting is still in its infancy, but more and more companies are embracing it, and each time a company announces it, their stocks go up. The problem is, each of them has their own cryptocurrency, which is going to cause issues in the future, if every time you want to buy a product from one of them, you have to do a currency exchange first. My prediction, however, is that cryptocurrency will be the future. Once enough companies jump on board, the normalization will begin, and a unified currency will replace all the others.

For now, I see Publica as a pioneer. Whether or not they’ll be able to make it work in the long run isn’t even the point anymore. Could be in six months someone else will have put Publica out of business with a better, more streamlined, more accessible system. Could be this is a sign of a brand new industry being born. Publica is opening new doors, forging the path for others to follow.¬† The point is, the possibility is now there, and it is real, and I really, really hope it’ll help right some imbalances for authors, artists, musicians, and others who rely on the sale of their own unique products for a living.

It will also upset a whole lot of people for whom this means an end of an era, and those people will fight tooth and nail to keep it from coming to fruition. The ultimate potential for all of this is an end to money as we know it, which would put a lot of banks out of business, and majorly disrupt our stock markets, etc. (Plot bunny, anyone?)

Then again, it could also be nothing. Reminiscent of the dotcom era, it could all be a massive bubble that will eventually burst. I guess we’ll just have to wait and see. I will definitely be keeping an eye on this, for sure.

ETA: Here are the responses I received to my questions:

1. Publica is a distribution channel, so where does it distribute to?

Authors can use Publica and blockchain to publish their books. Authors can sell their books to Publica tokenholders / platform users and protome a book to their existing customer base. Once a book is published on the platform, readers will be able to find a book using search or by entering a direct link (that can be promoted by author). Authors can continue to use their existing promotional channels.

2. If my books are already published through another platform, will there be a conflict?

No, it’s not a problem. If there are no legal limitations that allow an¬†author¬†to publish a book only on a specific platform, a¬†book¬†can be distributed through several¬†platforms.

3. Do readers need a special app to access the books? If so, what format will it support/require?

We are currently developing e-reader app that will serve double duty as wallet and e-book reader. The app will support popular e-book formats (like ePub).

Feel free to check our live AMA session, CEO Josef Marc answering question about supported formats: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DjAZg8_i8fo&t=2872s

4. If everything is done in PBL currency, how does an author redeem earnings in real currency?

Authors will be able to exchange PBL tokens to fiat money (for instance, USD or EUR).

5. Does the platform have protection measures against digital piracy?

By using a token as an access key to digital content, only actual tokenholders can access their purchased content. Readers (tokenholders) can give away or sell their tokens, and ownership/access to the content will be transferred to the new tokenholder. Blockchain technology is making the whole process transparent and decentralized.